(order Proboscidea, suborder Gomphotherioidea)
An extinct family of long-jawed mastodons, characterized by the development of multiple accessory tooth cusps and believed to be ancestral to the later mastodons, though not to modern elephants. The gomphotheres were one of three distinct proboscidean lines established by the Miocene. They in turn diverged into a variety of descendent lines, several of which had highly specialized lower jaws. The family persisted into the Pleistocene in both Old and New Worlds. Long snouts appeared in the earliest forms and in the Miocene Gomphotherium the lower jaw and premaxilla were very long, both bearing tusks which may have been used for digging, and probably permitting only a short trunk. In later forms the face became shorter and the trunk presumably became longer. There were many genera and species. The evolutionary importance of the gomphotheres lies in the probable parallel between their development and that of the line which led to the true elephants.
Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography — Zoology and Animal Sciences.