Scientists uncover oldest ever elephant tracks… perfectly preserved after seven million years
By TAMARA COHEN
Trudging across the desert, this is how an elephant herd would have looked seven million years ago. Scientists were able to recreate the scene in stunning detail after discovering the oldest ever set of footprints from when these animals roamed the Earth. And they have worked out that the ancient creatures - which were around the same size as today - lived in herds lead by females almost exactly as they do now.
A research team from Yale University, France, Germany and Abu Dhabi found their fossilised tracks in a remote area of the Arabian desert where erosion has recently allowed them to be clearly seen.They found a perfectly preserved line of footprints 260 m long – which the researchers said were so stark they could have been made yesterday.
It is thought they were made by 14 elephants in a tightly grouped herd of females and calves, and a lone male travelling the other way.The find shows for the first time that the predecessors of modern elephants had an advanced social hierarchy – which would have helped them find food and fend off threats…
Bibi, F., Kraatz, B., Craig, N., Beech, M., Schuster, M., and Hill, A. 2012. Early evidence for complex social structure in Proboscidea from a late Miocene trackway site in the United Arab Emirates. Biology Letters. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1185