Complete skeleton of a 120,000-year-old elephant calf found in Spain

Complete skeleton of a 120,000-year-old elephant calf found in Spain
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Complete skeleton of a 120,000-year-old elephant calf found in Spain. This is the only complete skeleton to be discovered in Europe.

The remains of the elephant calf are being studied by researchers from the University of Barcelona. The species is known as Palaeoloxodon antiquus. The unique remains were discovered in Barcelona’s Rhinoceros cave in Castelldefels.

Scientists Montserrat Sanz and Joan Daura have been involved in the study along with Maria Rita Palombo, a researcher from the La Sapienza University in Rome and the Institute of Environmental Geology and Geoengineering of the Italian National Research Council. The elephant calf is believed to have lived 120,000 years ago and have been five years old when it died. The calf would have weighed in at around 1,500 kilograms.


The Rhinoceros cave in Castelldefels is known for numerous remains of different species. Adult Palaeoloxodon antiquus remains have been discovered in Europe but the remains of young elephants are hard to find and normally only consist of single bones. This is the first complete skeleton that has been recovered in Europe.

Research from the scientists has been published in the Quaternay Science Reviews Journal. The remains are now on show in Castelldefels.

Joan Daura and Montserrat Sanz commented: “We know very well what the fauna and the natural environment of the last glaciation were like, especially from animal species from northern latitudes, such as the mammoth or the woolly rhinoceros, but we have very little information on the species that lived there before.”

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Alex Glenn is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News. Formerly she worked in the NHS for 15 years until relocating to Spain in 2018. She loves the Spanish lifestyle, language and culture and spent several years learning Spanish before moving to Spain for a better quality of life. She has made her home in the mountains in Almeria, where she loves being part of a rural community that has a mix of both expats and Spanish residents. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading and exploring the area where she lives.


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