Scientists discover a “sixth toe” on the legs of an elephant

Written: Abdullah Al Abbadi

The mysterious growth observed on the legs of elephants and baffled scientists for more than three centuries seems like a “sixth toe” that allows elephants to keep the balance, according to a study published 23-Dec-2011 in Science magazine.

Since the first dissection of an elephant in 1706, the mystery hanging over the reason for this observed bone at the back of the legs of elephants.

“People just did not know what it was,” John Hutchinson of the Royal Veterinary College in London, at the head of the scientific team that made the discovery, told the BBC.

“All those who have studied the legs of elephants questioned on the subject. They thought: + Hmm, it’s weird + and they move on,” he added.

“We decided to look into the matter and concluded that even if it was not a real toe, which acted as a toe to help the elephant to support its weight,” said the scientist .

“It’s a funny little piece of cartilage that has stretched over time to become a long bone,” says Hutchinson. “This is a great example of tinkering” that frequently accompanies the evolution of species, he noted. Scientists reached this conclusion after studying such fossils of elephants. When the first elephants have been around 55 million years, they had relatively flat feet, the structure has evolved there are about 40 million years while the elephants got bigger.

Selected Source for further read: Source LONDON (AFP) – 23/12/2011 5:39 p.m.

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