Amebelodon floridanus gomphothere

AMEBELODON FLORIDANUS

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   The “Shovel-tusker” is a member of the gomphotheres—a group of proboscideans related to the mammoths and modern-day elephants. Here I’ve depicted a small herd of them making their way on a regularly-used trail through a Slash Pine-Saw Palmetto Scrubland in Miocene Florida.
   For a long time it was assumed that the shovel-shaped lower jaw was used to scoop up marsh plants. Recent tooth-wear analysis, however, suggests that Amebelodons were generalist browsers that used their shovels for many purposes such as scraping bark, breaking branches and stripping leaves.
   The large “cats” fleeing in the foreground are barbourofelids. Though they look like sabre-tooth smilodons, barbourofelids (and their close relatives, the nimravids) are not closely related to cats, being instead an example of convergent evolution. Barbourofelids were pretty robust and built more like a bear than a cat. As such, these two probably could take down an adult Amebelodon if they wanted, but like most predators they’d rather flee than risk a potentially fatal injury.

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Amebelodon floridanus ©2011 John Meszaros.  All Rights Reserved S