Palaeoloxodon falconeri

Palaeoloxodon falconeri, also known as the pygmy elephant, is an extinct Siculo-Maltese species of elephant that was derived from the straight-tusked elephant.[1]

Palaeoloxodon falconeri
Temporal range: Late Pleistocene to Holocene
Mounted skeleton, Nebraska State Museum of Natural History
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
Family: Elephantidae
Genus: Palaeoloxodon
P. falconeri
Binomial name
Palaeoloxodon falconeri
(Busk, 1867)

Elephas falconeri Busk, 1867


In 1867, George Busk had proposed the species Elephas falconeri for many of the smallest molars selected from the material originally ascribed by Hugh Falconer to Palaeoloxodon melitensis.[2][1]


This island-bound elephant was an example of insular dwarfism, with an adult male specimen MPUR/V n1 measured 96.5 cm (3 ft 2.0 in) in shoulder height and weighed about 305 kg (672 lb), and an adult female specimen MPUR/V n2 measured 80 cm (2 ft 7.5 in) in shoulder height and weighed about 168 kg (370 lb).[3] P. falconeri's ancestors most likely reached the Mediterranean islands during a period of Pleistocene maximum when the sea levels were around 100 m (328 ft) lower, that significantly reduced distances and opened land bridges in between islands and from and to the mainland.[lower-alpha 1]

Cultural significance

The belief in cyclopes may have originated in P. falconeri skulls found in Sicily.[5] As early as the 14th century, scholars had noted that the nasal cavity could be mistaken for a singular giant eye socket.[6]

See also


  1. During the peak of the last ice age, (about 18,000 years ago) the mean Sea Level was 110 meters below the present level.[4]


  1. Palombo, M.R. (2001). Endemic elephants of the Mediterranean Islands: knowledge, problems and perspectives. The World of Elephants, Proceedings of the 1st International Congress (October 16–20, 2001, Rome): 486–491.
  2. Busk, G. (1867). Description of the remains of three extinct species of elephant, collected by Capt. Spratt, C.B.R.N., in the ossiferous cavern of Zebbug, in the island of Malta. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London, 6: 227–306.
  3. Larramendi, A.; Palombo, M. R. (2015). "Body Size, Biology and Encephalization Quotient of Palaeoloxodon ex gr. P. falconeri from Spinagallo Cave (Hyblean plateau, Sicily)". Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy. 26 (2): 102–109. doi:10.4404/hystrix-26.2-11478.
  4. "GLOBE: A Gallery of High Resolution Images". National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC). NOAA. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  5. "Cyclops". Greek and Roman Mythology (Mobile). Boston: 2007. ISBN 9781605010915.
  6. "Greek Giants". American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
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