The remains of a mastodon discovered on the building site of a hydroelectric plant in Chile.
The skull and tusks of a giant primitive elephant that died up to 2million years have been discovered by builders in Chile, it emerged today.
The mastodon, around the same size as modern elephants, is thought to have roamed forests and plains before dying and sinking into a swamp that preserved it.
The find, beside a river, could allow scientists to piece together more information about the DNA they share with their much bigger relative, the woolly mammoth…
It could also shed more light on the origins of elephants.
The discovery was made by contrustion workers building a hydroelectric power plant beside a river in Padre Hurtaldo, near the Chilean capital Santiago.
Digging into the ground, they first noticed the pointed end of one of the 4ft long by 6in wide tusks.
Paleontologists were called in and, after further excavation, discovered what is Chile’s first ever discovery of a complete mastodon skull.
Directed by Rafael Labarca, of Chile’s PDI institute, told Chilean newspaper La Tercera: ‘When we were in the excavation process we were aware that the bone continued.
‘Practically the whole skull complete and in perfect conditions, with its four molars and together with both tusks of almost four feet in length.
‘In addition, inside the skull one was part of the vertebrae of the spine.’
Mastodons were around the same size as modern elephants but were much more heavily muscled and had furry coats to protect them from cold.
The ancestry of the elephant has long been a source of fascination for biologists.
Fossil evidence shows it began in Africa around 50million to 60million years ago with moeritheres, pig-like creatures with long snouts.