A British fossil hunter has made a rare discovery after finding an ancient bone from a giant extinct elephant that roamed the earth at the same time as early humans. Dr Juliën Lubeek made the discovery while working in the field in Africa.
Dr Lubeek was completing field work in the desert near Lake Turkana in Kenya for Cambridge University when he made the astonishing find.
The bone is a nearly complete upper arm bone of the extinct giant elephant Palaeoloxodon recki. It measured just over four feet in length, while those of modern elephants are only two and a half feet. It is the largest single bone experts have come across in the 15 years they've been working in the area.
Juliën is a Research Associate in Vertebrate Palaeontology from the Department of Archaeology. He said: "Our early human ancestors witnessed this impressive beast that roamed the (much greener) East African landscape between ~3 million and 400 thousand years ago.
"This find is indicative for dramatic environmental alterations that were mostly driven by climatic change."
What was Palaeoloxodon recki?
The Palaeoloxodon recki was one of the largest known species of elephants standing at 13 feet tall and became extinct 34,000 to 24,000 years ago.
The species was likely native to Africa and West Asia and would have been the most dominant elephant species in East Africa. Palaeoloxodon recki are thought to have dispersed from Africa into the Near East roughly 780,000 years ago.
From here they spread into India to become Palaeoloxodon namadicus, which was the largest species of straight-tusked elephant. They then colonised the Japanese archipelago, evolving into Palaeoloxodon naumanni by 400,000 years ago.