Lesvos in the Past
Balancing a Long Neck PDF Print E-mail
The neck of giraffes is longer than in any other mammal, yet the number of vertebras seems the same: seven, and not one more. This was long thought to be the case, but this is not true. Giraffes do have one neck vertebra extra, but the last neck vertebra has been moved backward into the region of the thorax, and supports a rib, just as normal thoracic vertebras do. In this way, it is as if a giraffe still has just 7 neck vertebras. The result of this backward shift is that, seen from a distance in side-view, the giraffe seems to bear its neck further back on its torso and to have its fore-legs more in front. The advantage of this shifted neck is a greater balance of this huge and heavy pillar on a further gracile and slender body. To stabilize this heavy and mobile neck even more, the body of modern giraffes is shortened, and the fore-legs are slightly longer than the hind-legs.
 
Mastodonts and Mammoths of Vatera PDF Print E-mail

A distant relative of the elephant lived two million years ago in Vatera: the straight-tusked mastodont (Anancus arvernensis). Although this animal looks somewhat like an elephant with huge, straigth tusks, it is not directly related to it. Its cheek teeth do not have the typical ridges as seen in elephant and mammoths, but have cones instead (bunodont).  Anancus was a browser, and fed on leaves, fruits and roots, all to be found in the forests. It was a large animal of about three metres high and four metres long. The tusks could grow as long as the body.

 

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Skeleton of Anancus arvernensis at Museo di Paleontologia, Florence (Italy)

 

Another relative of the elephant lived around Vatera, the southern mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis). As elephants, mammoths have cheek teeth with parallel enamel ridges

 

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Skeleton of Mammuthus meridionalis at Museo di Paleontologia,

 
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