Posted in Wildlife A-Z | June 24, 2010 | Comment Now

Dwarf elephants are an extinct species of mammals. They are oft confused with the pygmy elephants that were a common sight in the fauna of South East Asia. The dwarf elephants of the Mediterranean lived in the Pleistocene period, which is approximately 10,000 years before our present day scenario.

What gives them their small size?

Insular dwarfism may be the primary cause for the size of these elephants. Insular dwarfism is a form of dwarfism, wherein the population’s gene pool gets limited to a very small environment. This is likely to happen on islands.


Fossilized remains of this dwarfed form have been found on the Mediterranean islands; namely Cyprus, Malta, Crete, Sicily, Sardinia, the Cyclades Islands and the Dodecanese Islands.


The size of these dwarf elephants of the Mediterranean is perhaps about one-tenth of the size of the average elephant that we see today. While their habitat must have been scattered all over the world, their fossils have been found at some islands
in the Mediterranean, suggesting that they were found here in larger

These amazing creatures are said to be the link that can connect the mammoths of the Ice Age to the elephants of the current day. Studies are being conducted on the found skeletal casts; which have been reconstructed for the purpose of research.

However, one thing is clear. There are visible differences in the skeletal structures of the elephants, depending on which island they came from.


There are differing opinions on the topic of these dwarf elephants of the Mediterranean. Since they were seen to differ from island to island, there were debates about whether they were, in reality, the same animal or not. The only kind of consensus that has been reached is that these creatures did exist at one point of time, in form or the other.


The remains found on the Mediterranean islands have been linked to the continental, straight – tusked elephant. It is believed that when the sea levels dropped, the island would become recolonised by the newer species. Inter-breeding would take place, and this would in turn give rise to a new hybrid variety of the dwarf elephant. This is the reason behind their varied physical appearances.

What is interesting here is that, both mammoths and their current day counterparts – the elephants, are well known for their impressive size. It’s this exact reason that makes the case of these ‘dwarf’ versions so interesting. They so closely resemble the huge beasts; while they continue to look like a miniature form of the former, and the latter.

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