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Dassie’s Relation to Elephant Finally Makes Sense!

Dassies being the closest living relative to the African elephant is finally believable! And can I say that many many people do not believe us when we tell them this on a tour!

Dassies are the closest related relatives to Elephants, despite the enormous difference in size between the two, research has claimed the dassie is the African elephant’s closest living relative. A new discovery has revealed that the oldest ancestors of modern-day elephants were little bigger than a rabbit.

A 60 million-year-old skull dug up in Morocco has been identified as the earliest form of elephant species. This creature was trunk-less, measured less than 50 cm from tip to tail and weighed just 5kg. The mini-jumbo had front incisors which jutted out of its mouth to form the forerunner of the modern tusks.

Analysis of the teeth in the skull proved it was related, however distant, to the modern elephant. It is 10 million years older than other Elephant ancestor fossils discovered.

This is where the beloved dassie steps in. The close evolutionary relationship between the teeny-tiny Dassie and the ginormous African Elephant is deduced from similarities in the structure of their feet and teeth.

Dassies are heavily preyed upon by Eagles, Caracal and Leopard. Besides their treacherous incisors and a moveable membrane in the eye which shields the pupil and allows vision directly into the sun they don’t have much going for them when it comes to protecting themselves from predators.

We love them, but it looks like the Dassie got the short end of the genetic stick in this family tree.

Dassies have evolved into somewhat lazy creatures. Their favourite pastime is basking in the sun on large rocks, particularly during mornings and late afternoons – the rock dassie seems to be the small and lazy brother. Ah, bless ’em!

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