Elephas creticus Bate, 1907

Cretan dwarf elephant



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Mammuthus creticus Bate, 1907; Palaeoloxodon creticus Bate, 1907


Poulakakis et. al. (2006) suggested that Elephas creticus was in fact a member of the genus Mammuthus based up analysis of a 43bp long segment of DNA extracted from an 800,000 year old fossil. This was rejected by Orlando et. al. (2007) because of the flawed method in obtaining that result. However, Herridge and Lister (2012) have again argued for the transfer of [i]Elephas creticus[/i] to [i]Mammuthus[/i], but based upon morphological grounds as opposed to the genetic grounds of Poulakakis et. al. (2006).

Until this new attempt at transferring [i]E. creticus[/i] has been widely accepted by the scientific community it shall remain in the genus [i]Elephas[/i] in this database. Although this latest paper is much sounder, and the results more likely to be true than not.


Conservation Status


Last record: Late Pleistocene



Crete, Greece


Biology & Ecology










Original scientific description:

Bate, D. M. A. (1907). On elephant remains from Crete, with description of Elephas creticus sp. n. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 77: 238-250.


Other references:

Athanassiou, Athanassios, van der Geer, Alexandra and Lyras, George A. (2019). Pleistocene insular Proboscidea of the Eastern Mediterranean: A review and update. Quaternary Science Reviews 218: 306-321. [Abstract]

Caloi, L., Kotsakis, T., Palombo, M. R. (1986). La fauna a Vertebrati terrestri del Pleistocene delle isole del Mediterraneo. Geologica Romana 25: 235-256.

Herridge, Victoria L. and Lister, Adrian M. (2012). Extreme insular dwarfism evolved in a mammoth. Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2012.0671.

Holmes, Branden. (2021). What's Lost and What Remains: The Sixth Extinction in 100 Accounts (eBook). Self published.

Joger, U. and Garrido, G. (2001). Phylogenetic position of Elephas, Loxodonta and Mammuthus, based on molecular evidence, pp. 544-547. In: Cavarretta, C., Gioia, P., Mussi, M. and Palombo, M. R. (eds.). The World of Elephants – International Congress, Rome. Proceedings of the 1st international congress – Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche, Rome. [automatic download]

Mol, D., De Vos, J., Van der Bergh, G.D., Sondaar, P.Y., 1996. The taxonomy and ancestry of the fossil elephants of Crete: faunal turnover and a comparison with Proboscidean faunas of Indonesian Islands. In: Reese, D.S. (Ed.), Pleistocene and Holocene Fauna of Crete and its First Settlers. Monograph in World Archeology, Vol. 28. Prehistory Press, Madison, WI, pp. 81-98.

Ludovic Orlando, Marie Pagés, Sébastien Calvignac, Sandrine Hughes and Catherine Hänni. (2007). Does the 43 bp sequence from an 800 000 year old Cretan dwarf elephantid really rewrite the textbook on mammoths? Biology Letters 3: 57-59.

Palombo, M. R. (2004). Dwarfing in Insular Mammals: The Endemic Elephants of Mediterranean Islands. Volume in Honour of E. Aguirre. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid.

Poulakakis, N., M. Mylonas, P. Lymberakis & C. Fassoulas. (2002). Origin and taxonomy of the fossil elephants of the island of Crete (Greece): problems and perspectives. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 186: 163-183.

Nikos Poulakakis, Aris Parmakelis, Petros Lymberakis, Moysis Mylonas, Eleftherios Zouros, David S Reese, Scott Glaberman and Adalgisa Caccone. (2006). Ancient DNA forces reconsideration of evolutionary history of Mediterranean pygmy elephantids. Biology Letters 2(3): 451-454.


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