The Proboscideans (also called the Paeungulates) are a clan of plant-eating mammals. At first they appeared in Africa during the late Eocene (Walking with Beasts episode Whale Killer), and later spread to Europe and the Americas (Mammoth Journey); their peak was during the Pleistocene epoch (24-5 MYA). When 5 MYA the world began to grow colder, most proboscideans found it hard to adapt and died out.
Initially the Proboscideans were small (about 1 meter tall at the shoulder), but later they grew gigantic (4.5–5 meters in the shoulder). There are 3 suborders in the group: the Moeritheriodea, the Deionotheroidea and the Elephantoidea. The modern Proboscideans, the African and Asian elephants, belong to the last group, and were cousins to the Pliocene-Pleistocene mammoths and mastodonts.
All Proboscideans have, or had, strongly developed upper lip and nose that merged together to form the trunk-proboscis in question, though the first Proboscideans possibly lacked them. These ancient animals lived at the edges of bodies of water, had mastodon-like teeth and short legs; as they moved to live in open spaces and to feed on harder leaves and tree branches, their teeth became more complex, they developed trunks and tusks, their legs grew longer.
In the SeriesEdit
Live footage of African elephants at the end of the series as representatives of new giant plant-eating animals as they graze in the savanna.
The pig-like Moeritherium appears in its second episode, giant Deinotherium in the fourth, and the emblematic Woolly mammoth in its last episode. In each case, the animal in question illustrated a certain step in the proboscidean evolution and also was a typical representative of the fauna of that period (late Eocene, late Pliocene, late Pleistocene); the Woolly mammoth in particular served as the central character for the last episode of the series.
Woolly mammoths reappear, using the stock footage from Walking with Beasts. In this case it uses them to better show the lifestyle of the Neanderthals, who had also appeared in Walking with Beasts.
Episode 2 featured Arsinoitherium, a bizarre-looking animal who belonged to Embrithopods, a group of animals related to the early Proboscideans such as Moeritherium, and possibly possessed short, tapir-like trunks too.