Miniature elephants of Sicily

Sicily and Malta used to be home to a species of dwarf elephant whose remains could have inspired the Greek myth of the cyclops.

Pygmy elephant
MUSE, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hey there, I’m feeling pretty sick today so today’s entry is going to be short one. Back when the Mediterranean was a whole lot lower than it is now, the islands of Sicily and Malta were connected with northern Africa. At that time, elephants roamed Sicily and were then stranded as the sea levels rose.

As is so often the case, the elephants stranded on these small Mediterranean islands adapted to suit their suddenly reduced habitat, and became very very small. Tiny wee elephants. Cute elephants. By small, I mean under a metre high (for an adult male) and under 80cm high (for an adult female elephant).

They’re all gone now, of course, but there’s a hypothesis that their fossilised skulls were the inspiration for the Greek cyclops. For, you see, elephant skulls have a big ol’ hole in the middle to accommodate the trunk, and those holes look a lot like a place where a single giant eye could go.

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