Pigs. Marshmallows. Teacups. It’s a well known law of physics that miniature things are cuter. Prepare yourselves, then, for cuteness overload: the fossil of a tiny mammoth.

Granted, ‘fossils’ and ‘cute’ aren’t two words conventionally put together in a sentence, but a recent discovery on the island of Crete proved the previous existence of a species of mammoth that when fully grown was no larger than a baby elephant.

The fossils of Mammuthus creticus were found over a century ago, but in 2010 further fossil findings confirmed the identity of the creature, and the fact that it stood no taller than 1 metre when fully grown.

A species of mammoth that when fully grown was no larger than a baby elephant.

The tiny mammoth is an example of a phenomenon known as the Island Rule – on small islands, where there are fewer species, large species tend to evolve to become smaller, and small species tend to become larger.

Another example of nanism or dwarfism is Homo floresiensis, a human species which stood less than 1 metre tall, and in the opposite direction – gigantism – a species of rabbit (Nuralagus rex) once inhabited Minorca that could weigh up to 50lbs.

The tiny mammoth is an example of a phenomenon known as the Island Rule.

Reasons for these dramatic size changes are not fully understood. It’s thought that with no predators on small islands, large species no longer need to be so large, and without large competing species such as cows, small species can evolve to become larger.

Whatever the reason, move over micro pigs – I want a mini mammoth.

Steph Harris

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Image: Brett Burton via Flickr

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