If elephants have opposable thumbs, why aren´t they considered primates?


Date: 1996-10-31 from Stefanie Crisanto in USA

Question

If elephants have opposable thumbs, why aren´t they considered primates?

Answer

When Carl von Linne´ made his classification of nature official, it was mainly based on anatomic differences between what he considered species. He was Christian, and believed that all species was created by God. Later, this classification system came to be used by evolutionists, who uses this classification also to try to see how animals are related evolutionarily.

Elephants are regarded as "primitive hoof-animals" belonging to a group called Subungulata (elephants, hyraxes, manatees and earthhogs) and forming the order Proboscidea.("Trunk-animals")

The two recent living elephant species are divided into two genus, (Loxodontaand Elephas) both belong to the family Elephantidae.

Primates follows a line from small animals called tupajas, or tree-shrews, (Scandentia) looking a bit similar to squirrels. So the character of thumb on the elephants tip of the trunk, might be comparable to the sitaution with bats and birds, they are not related but still have very similair wings.

When two species is not related but show same anatomic character, this character is related to as convergence, so convergent animals might have developed similarities, but this doesn´t mean they are related.

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