Technology & Science

Mini-mammoth roamed Mediterranean island

A mammoth species that walked the Mediterranean island of Crete more than 3 million years ago was only about a metre high, scientists in the United Kingdom say.

Meet the mini-mammoth: A mammoth species that walked the Mediterranean island of Crete as long as 3.5 million years ago was only about a metre high.

People examine mammoth reproductions in a German museum. Researchers say a dwarf mammoth species once roamed the island of Crete. (Jens Meyer/AP)

Scientists in the United Kingdom studied teeth fossils found in the early 20th century on the Greek island which were once thought to belong to a species of dwarf elephant. They determined by the shape of the teeth, and by the size of a humerus discovered in 2011, that the remains actually belonged to the smallest mammoth species yet discovered, now called Mammuthus creticus.

The results were published online Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Report co-author Victoria Herridge talks to Quirks & Quarks May 12 at noon on CBC Radio One

Animal species isolated on islands sometimes become very small – a phenomenon known as island dwarfism.

In this case, the researchers say the mammoth probably stood about 1.13 metres high at the shoulder and weighed about 310 kilograms. It is similar in size to the smallest dwarf elephant species and smaller than all other known mammoth species, the report states.

"This creature would look like a baby Asian elephant, only chunkier and with curvy tusks," report co-author Victoria Herridge told the scientific journal Nature.

By comparison, the largest known mammoth species stood about 4.5 metres at the shoulder and is estimated to have weighed as much as 20,000 kg.