KAYSERI, Turkey 

A 7.5 million-year-old complete skull fossil belonging to Choerolophodon pentelici, known as the ancestor of elephants, unearthed in central Turkey is proving to be a significant find, according to the head of the excavation team. 

The skull was found on the shore of Yamula Dam Lake in Kayseri province last year and its examination was conducted by one of the few experts on Proboscidea — a taxonomic order of afrotherian mammals — in the world, the Kayseri Municipality said in a statement.

Juha Saarinen, a professor at the University of Helsinki’s Department of Geosciences and Geography, came to Kayseri and completed the last examinations on the skull, the statement said.

Oksan Basoglu, head of the excavation team which continues working at the discovery site, informed the city’s mayor, Memduh Buyukkilic, about the process.

Basoglu said the Finnish scientist Saarinen “worked on the big and complete skull for two full days.”

“This will be published in a very respected journal abroad because it is a very significant fossil,” she quoted Saarinen as saying.

Basoglu said it will be the reference point for them and soon the names of Kayseri and Yamula will take their place in world literature.

“For this reason, it is a very essential development for us. Kayseri, in one sense, will be a center of paleontology,” she said, referring to the study of the history of life on Earth based on fossils.

She said studies in the laboratory are ongoing without any pause.

Mayor Buyukkilic emphasized their support for the scientist and expressed pleasure over the developments regarding the fossil.

It is said that Saarinen, who has worked in many areas from Europe to the Middle East and China to the US, stated that the complete skull fossil belonging to Choerolophodon pentelici is the only sample in the world and is larger in mass than elephant fossils at other contemporary localities in the world.

It was noted that when looking at a fully preserved and unique skull specimen and other fossils found in the province, he said, Kayseri would be a reference for paleontology in the world.

In the excavation work carried out in the region since 2017, samples of giraffes, four to five species known as the ancestors of elephants, rhinoceroses, three-hoofed horses and hornets were found.

*Contributions and writing by Sena Guler

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