Re: Aquatic elephants

David Froehlich (
Thu, 19 Oct 1995 14:48:36 -0500

The Tethytheria are composed of the proboscideans, sirenians and
desmostylids. Court's contention that the sirenian-Moeritherium
connection may bear some looking at is followed (1995, Journal of Vert
Paleo #3) by a similar paper where he argues that Moeritherium is
autapomorphously derived and Numidotherium (Mahboubi et al, 1987) was a
better estimate of the last common ancestor. IMO tetheytheres are a
strong clade if you exclude the hyracoids (sensu Fischer, 1989,in Evolution
of the perissodactyls, (Prothero and Schoch eds.), Oxford). The
placement of the hyracoids is somewhat controversial, they are either the
sister group to the perissodactyls or sister group to the remaining
tethytheres (I tend to believe the latter).

Tethytheres (exclusive of the hyracoids) may be semi-aquatic (?like a
hippo?) but it is hard to demostrate one way or the other. Certainly,
later proboscideans do not exhibit any aquatic adaptations, although both
sirenians and desmostylids are well adapted to aquatic lifestyles.

David J. Froehlich Phone: 512-471-6088
Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory Fax: 512-471-5973
J.J. Pickle Research Campus
The University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712