The Proboscidea (from the Greek προβοσκίς and the Latin proboscis) are a taxonomic order of afrotherian mammals containing one living family, Elephantidae, and several extinct families. This order, first described by J. Illiger in 1811, encompasses the trunked mammals.[1] In addition to their enormous size, later proboscideans are distinguished by tusks and long, muscular trunks; these features were less developed or absent in the smaller early proboscideans. Beginning in the mid Miocene, most members of this order were very large animals. The largest land mammal of all time may have been a proboscidean; Palaeoloxodon namadicus, which may have weighed up to 22 t (24.3 short tons), with a shoulder height of up to 5.2 metres (17.1 ft), surpassing several sauropod dinosaurs (in height).[2]

The earliest known proboscidean is Eritherium,[3] followed by Phosphatherium,[4] a small animal about the size of a fox. These both date from late Paleocene deposits of Morocco.

Proboscideans diversified during the Eocene and early Oligocene. Several primitive families from these epochs have been described, including Numidotheriidae, Moeritheriidae, and Barytheriidae in Africa. (Anthracobunidae from the Indian subcontinent has also been included, but was excluded from Proboscidea by Shoshani & Tassy (2005)[5] and has more recently been assigned to Perissodactyla.[6]) These were followed by the earliest Deinotheriidae, or "hoe tuskers", which thrived during the Miocene and into the early Quaternary. Proboscideans from the Miocene also included Stegolophodon, an early genus of the disputed family Stegodontidae; the diverse family of Gomphotheriidae, or "shovel tuskers", such as Platybelodon and Amebelodon; and the Mammutidae, or mastodons.

Most families of Proboscidea are now extinct, many since the end of the last glacial period. Recently extinct species include the last examples of gomphotheres in Central and South America, the American mastodon of family Mammutidae in North America, numerous stegodonts once found in Asia, the last of the mammoths, and several island species of dwarf elephants.[7]


Below is the current taxonomy of the proboscidean genera as of 2017.[8][9][10]


  1. ^ Illiger, Johann Karl Wilhelm (1811). Prodromus Systematis Mammalium et Avium: Additis Terminis Zoographicis Utriusque Classis, Eorumque Versione Germanica. Berolini: Sumptibus C. Salfeld. p. 62. 
  2. ^ Larramendi, A. (2016). "Shoulder height, body mass and shape of proboscideans" (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 61. doi:10.4202/app.00136.2014. 
  3. ^ Gheerbrant, E. (2009). "Paleocene emergence of elephant relatives and the rapid radiation of African ungulates". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (26): 10717–10721. doi:10.1073/pnas.0900251106. PMC 2705600Freely accessible. PMID 19549873. 
  4. ^ Gheebrant, Emmanuel (1996). "A Palaeocene proboscidean from Morocco". Nature. 383: 68–70. doi:10.1038/383068a0. 
  5. ^ Shoshani, Jeheskel; Pascal Tassy (2005). "Advances in proboscidean taxonomy & classification, anatomy & physiology, and ecology & behavior". Quaternary International. 126–128: 5–20. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2004.04.011. 
  6. ^ Cooper, L. N.; Seiffert, E. R.; Clementz, M.; Madar, S. I.; Bajpai, S.; Hussain, S. T.; Thewissen, J. G. M. (2014-10-08). "Anthracobunids from the Middle Eocene of India and Pakistan Are Stem Perissodactyls". PLoS ONE. 9 (10): e109232. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109232. PMC 4189980Freely accessible. PMID 25295875. 
  7. ^ Bjorn Kurten, Elaine Anderson (17 May 2005). Pleistocene mammals of North America - Google Books. Google Book Search. Retrieved 1 July 2009. 
  8. ^ J. Shoshani and P. Tassy. 2005. Advances in proboscidean taxonomy & classification, anatomy & physiology, and ecology & behavior. Quaternary International 126-128:5-20
  9. ^ Shi-Qi Wang; Tao Deng; Jie Ye; Wen He; Shan-Qin Chen (2016). Morphological and ecological diversity of Amebelodontidae (Proboscidea, Mammalia) revealed by a Miocene fossil accumulation of an upper-tuskless proboscidean. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. Online edition. doi:10.1080/14772019.2016.1208687.
  10. ^ Mothé, Dimila; Ferretti, Marco P.; Avilla, Leonardo S. (12 January 2016). "The Dance of Tusks: Rediscovery of Lower Incisors in the Pan-American Proboscidean Cuvieronius hyodon Revises Incisor Evolution in Elephantimorpha". PLOS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147009. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 


  • Ronald M. Nowak (1999), Walker’s Mammals of the World (6th ed.), Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-5789-9, LCCN 98023686 
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