The World’s Cutest Extinct Species?
The world’s smallest mammoth species, Mammuthus creticus, has recently been reported to have stood around 1 metre tall, around the size of a baby African elephant (Loxodonta africana). The fossils were found on the island of Crete in 1904, but only last year the discovery of a forelimb bone revealed the fossils to belong to the world’s smallest known mammoth species.
The mimi mammoth is an example of the Island Rule, where large species get smaller and small species get larger on islands. Other examples of nanism or dwarfism include Homo floresiensis, a human species which stood less than 1 metre tall. In the other direction as examples of gigantism, a 12kg species of rabbit (Nuralagus rex) once inhabited Minorca, and the most famous case is the well known giant tortoise of the Galapagos islands.
Reasons for these dramatic size changes are not fully understood, but it’s thought that the removal of predation risk on islands enables large species to evolve to be smaller, and the lack of larger competitors like mammalian browsers enables small species to become larger. Whatever the reason, move over micro pigs - I want a micro mammoth.
Illustration by Victor Leshyk