Proboscideans are represented in modern Africa by the savanna and forest elephants Loxodonta africana and Loxodonta cyclotis, whose sub-Saharan distribution is increasingly fragmented and threatened. These species and the Asian elephant Elephas maximus constitute the last remnants of a once-flourishing order that enjoyed its maximum diversity in the Miocene. Together with the extinct embrithopods and desmostylians, as well as sirenians and hyraxes, proboscideans belong to a larger grandorder, the Paenungulata. In turn, paenungulates, elephant shrews, tenrecs, chrysochlorids, and aardvarks are placed in the superordinal clade Afrotheria, primarily based on the results of molecular analyses and more tenuously on morphological criteria. The molecular data have been interpreted as suggesting Cretaceous origins for Afrotheria and an early Paleocene divergence of Proboscidea. This chapter describes the systematic paleontology of Proboscidea.
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