The Story of the Elephant
by George Langford, Sr., Joliet, Illinois, after 1920 and prior to 1947
Edited and Copyrighted by George Langford, III, 2010
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The Dinotherium

It is not the purpose here to attempt the construction of anything approaching an unbroken chain of elephant succession, for many links are missing, others are weak and the great majority remain unforged.  The aim is to illustrate the ingenuity whereby elephant-like animals, among others, have adapted themselves to various conditions of life, as shown by their bones and teeth, and how such adaptations have led to diversity of form.  Such changes are all in the line of advancement.  Certain crocodiles and turtles have altered little in millions of years and are examples of slow or interrupted progress.  They found their places in the world long long ago and stuck to them.  Water animals are far less susceptible to climatic and topographic changes than creatures of the land.  Every storm, drought, flood or extreme of temperature is of serious concern to the latter and may tax their every resource.  For a crocodile there is little in the way of diversion, but a wide-awake land animal can choose from a thousand and one ways to make a living.  It cannot be said that many of them make irrevocable mistakes, for mistakes once made often became mended and led to a certain degree of perfection.  An example of this is well illustrated in one case of the primitive Elephant family where an individual developing along certain lines, soon reached the limit of his attainments.  Had this limit left him in a perfectly secure position, and one thoroughly satisfactory to himself, he might be with us today.  But it is not in the nature of things for land animals to remain stationary.  The path leads to perfection although none know what that result is to be until progression ends and deterioration begins. The downward glide may be rapid or immeasurably slow.  It may even be arrested but inevitably deterioration, unless arrested, leads to extinction.  The animal in question was one whose career may be considered in great part a success.  He reached his point of perfection after perhaps a million years of activity and then glided slowly into oblivion.  Animals once extinct never recur, and so the world has seen the last of him.  Such was the Dinotherium [Deinotherium ? GL,III].

At present, the Beast of Moeris forms the first great subdivision of the Elephant Family and Dinotherium, the second.  The name means Terrible Beast - not a particularly apt title, for the animal was no more terrible than many another.  A name signifying that he had only two tusks and those, lower ones, would have been better.  These tusks were short and curved sharply downward.  The upper jaws contained no incisors whatever.  The grinding teeth, consisting of five or six in each jaw, were two-ridged like those of the Beast of Moeris. The upper ones resembled those of the Tapir.  In all the respects enumerated, this animal was very different from any members of the Elephant family.  And yet he had an elephantine head with trunk of respectable length and his body and limbs were quite elephant-like.  He was probably a marsh-dweller who waded around in the wet using his lower tusks like a hoe to secure his food.  He, a creature of the Miocene period, is found only in Europe, Africa and Asia.  He disappeared in the Pliocene period, his stage of deterioration.  But even remnants of races bearing the marks of approaching extinction sometimes persist, for a gigantic number of the family ten feet tall roamed over southern Europe as late as early Pliocene times.  Ancestral forms of the Dinotherium are to be looked for in Oligocene deposits, and some of them may prove to be more in the true line of elephant development than he.  However, until then the beast must be put in a class by himself and viewed as an example of a race who, having diverged from the majority's way of doing, finally reached the peak of his powers and settled back into oblivion, leaving others to
follow the better path he might have chosen.
[from the original, typewritten draft with hand-written corrections - GL,III, ed.]