UM scientists discover fossil of extinct elephant in Gopeng cave

PETALING JAYA: Scientists from Universiti Malaya (UM) have discovered the fossil of a stegodon, an extinct elephant, in a limestone cave in Gopeng, Perak.

It is the first stegodon fossil to have been discovered in Malaysia, with a rough geological age of between 30,000 and 80,000 years.

Lead researcher Dr Ros Fatihah Muhammad from UM’s Geologi Department and vertebrate paleontologist and zooarcheologist Lim Tze Tshen from the Paleontological Society of Malaysia were the scientists behind the discovery.

Dr Ros said the discovery was possible thanks to information from cave settlers group, Kinta Valley Watch, as well as her team's survey and research.

“Studies so far show that the remains of this stegodon is not associated with ancient humans.

"However, this study is still very important as it is related to the history of the migration of ancient fauna and also environmental changes in the South-East Asian region,” she said.

According to Lim, who was the one to identify the fossil as a stegodon, the imaging process performed by Prof Dr Norliza Ibrahim and Dr Mohd Azmi Abdul Razak from UM’s Faculty of Dentistry found that the fossil was most likely a stegodon of less than two years old.

“There is evidence from this stegodon’s discovery site and other paleontological sites that show the existence of extinct animal remains in Peninsular Malaysia such as orang utans, Sumatran rhinos, Java rhinos, Asian black bears and a rat known to be extinct from the planet,” said Lim.

Congratulating the researchers, UM vice-chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim said the discovery was a milestone in the field of quaternary paleontological studies in Malaysia.

“Well done and congratulations to Dr Ros Fatihah and her team, who have done us proud!

“So far, only two Master of Medicine have been awarded in this field. The first was for fossils and paleo-ecology of large mammals, while the second was for fossils and paleo-ecology of rats.”

Rahim also expressed his appreciation to the Perak Menteri Besar Office, Perak Department of Minerals and Geosciences and the Perak State Park Corporation for cooperating and providing support for further studies to be conducted at the research site.

“I hope this cooperation will continue for various studies in the future.”

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