The gomphotheres are extinct elephant-like animals and were widespread in North America during the Miocene and Pliocene, 12 to 1.6 million years ago. From about 5 miilion years ago onwards, they were slowly replaced by modern elephants. Most gomphotheres had four tusks, and their retracted facial and nasal bones prompt paleontologists to believe that gomphotheres had elephant-like trunks.
An upper tusk of a gomphothere elephant, Serbelodon burnhami, from the Dove Spring Formation of Red Rock Canyon. This ancestral elephant still has both upper and lower tusks (below). Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County specimen number LACM 60091.
A reconstruction of a gomphothere (illustration by Emily Harrington).
Did you know?
The fossils of prehistoric animals during the past 7-12 million years ago can be found entombed in the sediments, including extinct elephants, rhinos, three-toed horses, giraffe-like camels, saber-toothed cats, and bone-crushing dogs. There are also fascinating small creatures such as ancestral skunks, alligator lizards, and shrews.