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LAHORE: The rare fossil of a million-year-old tusk discovered recently near Tatrot village of Jhelum district belongs to the Anancus sivalensis species -- a distant cousin of the present day elephant.

This is also said to be only the second complete fossil of a tusk reported from the subcontinent. In 2004, the longest fossil of a tusk in South Asia had been discovered by the same team in Jhelum, reads a report submitted by the research team to the office of Punjab University (PU) vice chancellor on the discovery of the tusk.

A PU paleontologist team led by Prof Dr Muhammad Akhtar and comprising Dr Muhammad Akbar Khan and Dr Abdul Majid Khan from the Zoology Department claimed to have discovered a 3.5-million-year-old fossil of a tusk, which could provide clues about the evolution of elephants in the region. Currently, the team is working in the Potwar plateau under a Higher Education Commission-funded research project on the Siwalik Proboscideans.

The report claims that the tusk is believed to be 3.5 million years old and was buried horizontally in stone. Anancus sivalensis belonged to the Proboscidea order that originated in Africa but spread all over the world, representing a diverse group of mammals. The giant elephants with tusks six feet long roamed in Asia minor and northern Pakistan millions of years ago. The discovered tusk fossil is now housed in the PU Jhelum campus.

The report further stated that the animals were believed to have become extinct following environmental changes, which resulted in forests making way for grasslands.

“The team unearthed million-year-old remnants of Asiatic bison from the same area in 2010, establishing the bison lineage in Indian subcontinent for the first time. The early bison – an early form of bull fighter – are now confined in north America,” it concluded.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017