Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Pygmy Elephants flyer

There's now a flyer for the forthcoming Pygmy Elephants book. I've already distributed it in a slightly different version to attendees at this year's Colloque de Cryptozoologie in Belgium.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

l'Élephant nain - Mammalia 1951

I am now 17 days away from the deadline for delivery of Pygmy Elephants to the publisher, and I have been busy!

On what is hopefully my last pygmy elephant-related visit to the British Library's Humanities Reading Room 1, I looked up Lucien Blancou's Notes Sur les mammiferes de l'Equateur Africain Français - l'Élephant nain from Mammalia 1951 ("nain" being "dwarf".) In this, Blancou is convinced that several particularly "loud, aggressive" crop-raiding elephants shot in Gabon in 1948 were pygmies.

The trouble is, he seems to change his mind about pygmy elephants in a later (1962) article in the same journal, and later comes to the conclusion there is no such thing. And the 2003 DNA analysis of one of the skulls in question suggested they were bog-standard forest elephants ("Status of the so-called pygmy elephant,"Régis De Bruyne, Arnaud Van Holt, Véronique Barriel, Pascal Tassy, Compte Rendu Biologies, Natural History Museum Paris, Elsevier, 2003)

Monday, 16 July 2012

Pygmy Pachyderms article from Fortean Times, CFZ "Weird Weekend" talks on pygmy elephants

My report on my trip to Kerala, India to investigate reports of alleged "kallana" pygmy elephants is here... (April 2011)

My talk on the "kallana" expedition from CFZ's Weird Weekend is here... (video, September 2011)

My earlier talk on pygmy elephants, from another CFZ Weird Weekend is here... (October 2008)

Pygmy Pachyderms - my article first published in Fortean Times is here... (October 2009)

Backstage at the Natural History Museum, London - the Bate Collection of Mediterranean pygmy elephant fossils, report here... (May 2007)

Evolution of Island Mammals review from Fortean Times, includes fossil pygmy elephants, co-author Georgios Lyras helped with the Pygmy Elephants book, read the review here... (January 2011)

Much more in the Pygmy Elephants book, due out in time for Christmas.

Profusely illustrated

With just over a month to go until my deadline to hand in Pygmy Elephants to the publishers, I've been going through the illustrations, and I'm shocked to discover there's nearly 100 of them. Here's a sneak preview of some of them, in glorious black-and-white, due to the no-nonsense nature of the print-on-demand printing process. All these images copyright Matt Salusbury, all rights reserved.
Close-up of a juvenile captive elephant's head, Periyar River, Kerala, India
Dr Victoria Herridge holding a Mediterranean fossil pygmy elephant tooth, "backstage" at the Natural History Museum, London.
Deinotherium - an early relative of the elephants - compared to the contemporary early hominid Austraopithecus, with whom its shared the Rift Valley in East Africa. 1/25th scale models by Bullyland, from author's collection
Elephas mniadriensis, another Mediterranean pygmy elephant, a taller "intermediate" form. It was a later arrival to the Mediterranean islands.
The giant sengi, a relative of the elephant shrews, but half as big again as the next biggest member of the elephant shrew family. Recently discovered in a Tanzanian "island forest", it's an example of island forest adaptations, in which larger mammals often become smaller and small mammals often become bigger. The giant sengi is also a (very) distant relative of the elephants. There's more in the book, Pygmy Elephants, out in time for Christmas.

Another "dwaergelefant", Specimen 2981

Lars Thomas of the University of Copenhagen kindly sent me a bunch of photos he'd taken for me of the other "dwaergelefant" (Danish for "dwarf elephant") from the University's museum, shot in South Cameroon in 1955. This is the skull of Specimen 2981, a female. The Stanley knife in front of it is 15cm long. The other one (see below) is Specimen 2980, which had milk in its teats. Lars felt that, based on the position and wear on the teeth - elephants' teeth come out at different points in their jaw during their lifetime, making dentition a better guide to their age than size - they were very small adults. I forwarded some photos of Specimen 2980 to the expert of fossil elephants, especially mammoths, Prof. Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum, London, who's also very knowledgeable indeed on living elephants. Based on some calculations my mathematician colleague did on the size of the skull, using the 15cm-long Stanley knife as a guide, Prof. Lister felt that Specimen 2980 was within the range of the size a forest elephant could be. He also felt - based on the photographs and what he could see in them - Specimen 2980 could be as young as 20 years old, which wouldn't make it fully grown anyway. Prof. Lister emphasised that this was just an initial view based on looking at a couple of photographs only. There's more in the book Pygmy Elephants, due out in December from CFZ Press.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Copenhagen University's dwaergelefanten

Lars Thomas of the University of Copenhagen finally got access to the mammalogy section of the University of Copenhagen museum, where specimens had been put in deep freezes to combat a beetle infestation. After a long delay, he was able to send me some photos of one of the female dwaergelefanten - Danish for "dwarf elephants" - shot in 1955 in South Cameroon. Lars told me, "I've had a chance now to look closer on them, and one is definitely an adult, although very small in stature... Each elephant teeth lasts around 10 years. And in one of the animals, the third one was starting to appear, which would mean it is was at least 20 years old, probably around 25." The photo shows the lower(?) jaw of Specimen no. 2980, one of the two females shot and sent to the museum. The Stanley knife for scale is 15cm long.
More details in the Pygmy Elephants book, due out from CFZ Publications in time for Christmas. Photo copyright Lars Thomas, used with permission.