Meet Advait Jukar, a scientist who studies fossil elephants
Meet Advait Jukar, a scientist who studies fossil elephants Paleontologist Advait Jukar touches a fossil elephant skull while Smithsonian Science How co-host Maggy Benson watches. (Jennifer Renteria/Smithsonian/National Postal Museum)
Meet Advait Jukar, a scientist who studies fossil elephants
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Advait Jukar loved the extinct monsters of deep time as a kid. Some examples of these monsters are dinosaurs and mammoths. This is why he feels so lucky now. He gets to study these fossil giants every day as a paleontologist. He works at the National Museum of Natural History. Advait specializes in the study of fossil elephants and their extinct relatives. These include mastodons and mammoths. It also includes gomphotheres. 

"I love elephants not only because they're charismatic and have an incredibly interesting evolutionary history, but also because in many ways, they're like us. They live in complex social groups and exhibit a range of emotions. If we let the remaining species go extinct, that entire branch of the mammal tree of life is gone forever. I hope that never happens."

The earliest elephant relatives originated in Africa about 60 million years ago. They dispersed to every continent on earth. They didn't disperse to Antarctica and Australia. There are about 165 known elephant species from the fossil record. Scientists estimate that there would have been many more that we haven't found yet in this branch of the evolutionary tree of life. In Earth's more recent history there were 16 species of elephants and their relatives. This was between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago. The elephants were living at the same time around the world. There were at least seven species in the United States. Today, there are only three species of elephants that remain. These include the African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). It also includes the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). Populations of all three species are declining. Asian elephants are at a much higher risk of extinction.

Today's elephants are part of the order Proboscidea. It consists of modern elephants. In also includes their extinct relatives. These relatives include mastodons and mammoths. It also includes gomphotheres. All of the animals in this group have a proboscis, or trunk. They use it to eat. And they use it to drink. Today there are only two surviving elephant genera. These are the African and Asian elephant. Their evolutionary history is much more diverse. 

Paleobiologists like Advait use fossils to better discover new species of fossil elephants. They reveal what they may have looked like. They reveal what they ate and how they were related to one another. Watch a brief video to see how he does his work. 

Tune into a live webcast on Thursday, December 12, 2019. You will meet Advait. You will learn how he studies fossil elephants at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. And you can ask him questions.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/meet-advait-jukar-scientist-who-studies-fossil-elephants/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What do you think the most exciting thing about studying fossils might be? Why?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (20)
  • 26kadubo
    12/19/2019 - 10:29 a.m.

    The most exciting thing would be looking at the fossils because then you can see different bones of dinosaurs, mammoths, and other animals. You could also see what kind of food they eat.

  • 26sgbock
    12/19/2019 - 10:30 a.m.

    I think the most exciting thing would be figuring out which bones go where on the animal. I think that because humans obviously have a different body than animals so it would be cool to learn about animals and fossils.

  • 26nalee
    12/19/2019 - 10:30 a.m.

    I think the most exciting part would be seeing what they might have looked like with flesh. I think that because if the animal was extinct, then it would be the first time seeing it. And most of the time, when you see something for the first time, it's exciting.That's why
    that's the best part.

  • 26amtess
    12/19/2019 - 10:36 a.m.

    The most exciting thing might be the paleobiologists learning that there are more animals related to an elephant than thought before

  • 26acanan
    12/19/2019 - 11:06 a.m.

    the most exciting thing would be that we can learn how they died and what kind of animals where around back than, what the climate was too.

  • 26nrcart
    1/02/2020 - 10:32 a.m.

    I think the most exciting thing about studying fossils would be finding out hat they ate and what they are related to. I think it be exciting to find out what they ate because then we would know what foods have changed. And it would be exciting to find out what they were related to because if we have any in our homes.

  • 26ehprin
    1/02/2020 - 10:46 a.m.

    I think the most exciting thing about studying fossils would be possibly discovering new species or parts.

  • 26gmnels
    1/07/2020 - 10:24 a.m.

    I think discovering fossils is really cool especially with large animals. I do have some fossils but they are very small. :D

  • 26njsara
    1/07/2020 - 10:27 a.m.

    Getting the excitment of finding a new spesis and getting does doller bills. Also to have people who look up to you.

  • 26alcham
    1/07/2020 - 10:34 a.m.

    I think the most exciting thing about studying fossils is you could possibly discover a new species. I think this is exciting because, if you discovered something new you could be famous. You might get rich.

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