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Gomphotherium (/ˌɡɒmfəˈθɪəriəm/; "Welded Beast") is an extinct genus of proboscid that evolved in the Early Miocene of North America and lived for about 10 million years from 13.650—3.6 Ma.

The genus emigrated into Asia, Europe and Africa after a drop in sea level (probably during the Tortonian epoch) allowed them to cross over.[1] It survived into the Pliocene, and its remains have been found in Chile,[2] France, Germany, Austria, Kansas, Tennessee, Pakistan, Kenya and Bosnia and Herzegovina.[3]


G. angustidens by Charles R. Knight
G. angustidens skeleton

Gomphotherium stood around 3 metres (9.8 ft) high with an estimated weight of 4-5 tons, and bore a strong resemblance to a modern elephant.[4] However, it had four tusks; two on the upper jaw and two on the elongated lower jaw. The lower tusks are parallel and shaped like a shovel and were probably used for digging up food from mud. Unlike modern elephants, the upper tusks were covered by a layer of enamel. Compared to elephants, the skull was more elongated and low, indicating that the animal had a short trunk, rather like a tapir's. These animals probably lived in swamps or near lakes, using their tusks to dig or scrape up aquatic vegetation. In comparison to earlier proboscids, Gomphotherium had far fewer molars; the remaining ones had high ridges to expand their grinding surface. Gomphotherium inhabited dry wooded regions near lakes.

A complete skeleton of Gomphotherium was found at Mühldorf, Germany, in 1971.


The genus was erected by Burmeister (1837) and was assigned to Gomphotheriidae by Burmeister (1837), Qiu et al. (1981), Carroll (1988), Lambert and Shoshani (1998), Sach and Heizmann (2001), Sanders and Miller (2002) and Lambert (2007).. Gomphotherium was considered paraphyletic by Lambert (2007). Serridentinus was named by Osborn (1923) and synonymized subjectively with Gomphotherium by Tobien (1972),[5] Madden and Storer (1985),[6] Shoshani and Tassy (1996),[7] Lambert (1996), Lambert and Shoshani (1998)[8] and Christiansen (2007). The following cladogram shows the placement of the genus Gomphotherium among other proboscideans, based on hyoid characteristics:[9]

Mammut americanum (American mastodon)

Gomphotherium sp.

Stegodon zdanskyi

Loxodonta africana (African elephant)

Elephas maximus (Asian elephant)

Mammuthus columbi (Columbian mammoth)


  1. ^ Alberdi, M. T.; Prado, J. L.; Ortiz-Jaureguizar, E.; Posadas, P.; Donato, M. (2007), "Historical Biogeography of Trilophoont Gomphotheres (Mammalia, Proboscidea) Reconstructed Applying Dispersion-Vicariance Analysis", in Díaz-Martínez, E.; Rábano, I., Proceedings of the 4th European Meeting on the Palaeontology and Stratigraphy of Latin America, Zaragoza Spain 17–19 September 2007, Madrid: Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, pp. 9–14, ISBN 978-84-7840-707-1, retrieved 2008-07-28 
  2. ^ Presentaron Libro sobre Sitio Paleontológico Pilauco Bajo Noticias UACh
  3. ^ U Tomislavgradu otkriven kostur pretka slona, Večernji list, 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2011-08-26 (Croatian)
  4. ^
  5. ^ H. Tobien. 1972. Status of the Genus Serridentinus Osborn 1923 (Proboscidea, Mammalia) and related forms. Mainzer Geowissenschaftliche Mitteilungen 1:143-191
  6. ^ C. T. Madden and J. E. Storer. 1985. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 22
  7. ^ J. Shoshani and P. Tassy. 1996. Summary, conclusions, and a glimpse into the future. in J. Shoshani and P. Tassy, eds., The Proboscidea: Evolution and Palaeoecology of Elephants and Their Relatives 335-348
  8. ^ W. D. Lambert and J. Shoshani. 1998. Proboscidea. In C. M. Janis, K. M. Scott, and L. L. Jacobs (eds.), Evolution of Tertiary mammals of North America 606-621
  9. ^ Shoshani, J.; Tassy, P. (2005). "Advances in proboscidean taxonomy & classification, anatomy & physiology, and ecology & behavior". Quaternary International. 126–128: 5. Bibcode:2005QuInt.126....5S. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2004.04.011.  edit


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