Mysterious kostevoy process, found on all legs of elephants, was in fact a sixth finger, as the scientists reported. For over 300 years, this structure has puzzled researchers, but now in a new analysis, it was found that it helps the animals to keep them colossal weight.
Study of fossil showed that the so-called "pre-finger" has evolved in elephants about 40 million years ago, at a time when the ancient elephants have become more impressive size and moved to live on land. The study was published in the journal Science.
The main author of the study, Professor John Hutchinson (John Hutchinson), of the Royal Veterinary College, UK, noted in his report that: "Over this mystery, scientists began to wrestle back in 1706, when the first elephant was opened a Scottish surgeon."
Many people believed that the build-up was a huge piece of cartilage, and for many years have been spent on trying to figure out the purpose of this cartilage. Professor Hutchinson and his colleagues used a combination of techniques involving the use of CT scans, histology, dissection and electron microscopy to unravel the mystery.
The researchers reported that the structure was made of bone, although with a very irregular and unusual arrangement. But a more detailed analysis also showed that bone spurs had a close similarity with an unusual bone that is found on the outside of the clutches of the panda. This bone helps animals to capture and hold in the clutches of bamboo, and so was called the "thumb" or "sixth finger" panda. We also have a mole like bony growths resembling an extra finger to help them dig their own burrows.
And now, the research team reported that elephants can be added to the list of species for which five toes enough. Professor Hutchinson noted that, at first, it looked like a small bump on the tissue, which in the course of evolution has turned into cartilage and then in the bone.
"Many animals have similar cartilaginous nodules, and they sometimes turn to bone and serve in different species for different purposes." Elephants have, this bone structure is simple purpose: it helps a great animal to stand on his feet. Unlike pandas and moles that have extra "thumb" is only the front feet, elephants have this bone is present on all four legs.
Although the legs of elephants outside look like tree trunks, inside they have a very complex structure. The five standard toes, located in front of the elephants help build when they get up, and an extra "toe", located behind the animal provides support under the heel.
To find out when and why this strange bone appeared in the most difficult in the world of animals, the researchers studied elephant fossils. Professor Hutchinson said that the first elephants, which appeared about 55 million years ago, there was another foot structure, a flat foot did not provide any extra structures and build-up. Bone structure, it seems, began to develop about 40 million years ago, when the elephants began to live on the land and have increased in size, as noted by Hutchinson. He added in conclusion: "It is a wonderful example of evolution in action."