The Closest Relative To An Elephant Is Basically A Rodent

By Jeff Kelly on Wednesday, July 17, 2013
hyrax
“I get an urge, like a pregnant elephant, to go away and give birth to a book.” —Stephen Fry

In a Nutshell

Elephants are huge, fascinating creatures. If you had to guess a closest relative, you’d probably go with a hippo or maybe a rhino. What you probably wouldn’t guess is that it’s actually the rock hyrax, a small, furry marine mammal that looks more like a gopher than a giant, grey beast.

The Whole Bushel

You probably have never heard of the rock hyrax, which is a small marine mammal primarily found in Eastern Africa and the Middle East. A rock hyrax is small creature covered in short brown fur, and bears more than a passing resemblance to a hamster or a gopher.

That’s probably why it’s almost inconceivable that the rock hyrax is actually the closest evolutionary relative of the elephant. It turns out that while they look absolutely nothing alike on the outside, they share some similar features, albeit on a much, much smaller scale when it comes to the rock hyrax.

Their teeth and skulls are very similar, as are their toes, which are rounded and sport a long nail. A few more interesting facts about the hyrax is that it can survive basically without water, and perfumes are made from its urine and feces.

Show Me The Proof

San Diego Zoo: Rock Hyrax