Tetrapod Zoology

RIP Yeheskel Shoshani

i-27feea32d3739be9678edde697abe5c0-Haaretz Shoshani photo.jpg

I was saddened to learn today of the recent death of elephant researcher and conservationist Prof. Yeheskel (or Hezy) Shoshani: he was severely injured in what is thought to have been a terrorist attack in Addis Ababa (where he worked) on Tuesday 20th May, and died in hospital on Wednesday 21st. Two other people travelling on the same minibus were killed in the same attack and nine others were injured…

I had never met nor corresponded with Prof. Shoshani but have always been a great admirer of his excellent work. He was a giant in the world of elephant research and made an immense contribution to the field: he wrote on anatomy, physiology, behaviour, ecology, systematics, phylogeny and conservation (you can get some idea of his 200+ contributions from the references below: I don’t have a particularly big collection of proboscidean literature, but listed here are all the Shoshani papers and articles that I have). In 1977, while based at Wayne State University in Michigan, he founded the Elephant Research Foundation and edited its publication, Elephant. My favourite books on elephants were written by Prof. Shoshani, or include contributions from him.

i-31cf85bdeec81efe3a263edb28485700-Ahmed model.jpg

Prof. Shoshani truly knew elephants, and spoke of the intelligence, memory and emotion present in these amazing animals. He wrote of how the immense Kenyan bull Ahmed (who died in 1974) inspired him to study elephants. By all accounts he was a kind and gentle man. It is a most unfitting end, and my thoughts go to his family.

The image at the top is the only one I can find of Prof. Shoshani: it is Haaretz and is borrowed from here. The other image shows the model of Ahmed that today stands outside the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi.

Refs – –

Grubb, P., Groves, C. P., Dudley, J. P. & Shoshani, J. 2000. Living African elephants belong to two species: Loxodonta africana (Blumencah, 1797) and Loxodonta cyclotis (Matschie, 1900). Elephant 2, 1-4.

Hagos, Y., Yacob, Y., Ghebrehiwet, M. & Shoshani, J. 2003. The elephants (Loxodonta africana) of Gash-Barka, Eritrea: Part 1. Historical perspective and related findings. Pachyderm 34, 13-23.

Janis, C. M., Colbert, M. W., Coombs, M. C., Lambert, W. D., MacFadden, B. J., Mader, B. J., Prothero, D. R., Schoch, R. M., Shoshani, J. & Wall, W. P. 1998. Perissodactyla and Proboscidea. In Janis, C. M., Scott, K. M. & Jacobs, L. L. (eds) Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America. Volume 1: Terrestrial Carnivores, Ungulates, and Ungulatelike Mammals. Cambridge University Press, pp. 511-524.

Lambert, W. D. & Shoshani, J. 1998. Proboscidea. In Janis, C. M., Scott, K. M. & Jacobs, L. L. (eds) Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America. Volume 1: Terrestrial Carnivores, Ungulates, and Ungulatelike Mammals. Cambridge University Press, pp. 606-621.

Olds, N. & Shoshani, J. 1982. Procavia capensis. Mammalian Species 171, 1-7.

Shoshani, J. 1986. Mammalian phylogeny: comparison of morphological and molecular results. Molecular Biology and Evolution 3, 222-242.

– . 1988. Back to basics (elephantid back shapes). BBC Wildlife 6 (12), 654.

– . 1997. Last of a noble line. In Orenstein, R. (ed) Elephants: The Deciding Decade. Firefly Books (Buffalo, New York), pp. 41-49.

– . 1998. Understanding proboscidean evolution: a formidable task. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 13, 480-487.

– . 2000. Elephants. In Cogger, H. G., Gould, E., Forshaw, J., McKay, G. & Zweifel, R. G. (consultant eds) Encyclopedia of Animals: Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians. Fog City Press (San Francisco), pp. 167-173.

– . 2000. Hyraxes. In Cogger, H. G., Gould, E., Forshaw, J., McKay, G. & Zweifel, R. G. (consultant eds) Encyclopedia of Animals: Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians. Fog City Press (San Francisco), pp. 188-189.

– . 2000. Aardvark, In Cogger, H. G., Gould, E., Forshaw, J., McKay, G. & Zweifel, R. G. (consultant eds) Encyclopedia of Animals: Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians. Fog City Press (San Francisco), pp. 190-191.

– . 2000. The elephant’s relatives. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 16-17.

– . 2000. Evolution of the Proboscidea. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 18-33.

– . 2000. Comparing the living elephants. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 36-51.

– . 2000. Comparing mammoths and mastodons. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 56-57.

– . 2000. Anatomy and physiology. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 66-81.

– . 2000. Elephant migration. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 138-143.

– . 2000. Why save elephants? In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 226-229.

– . 2000. Epitome. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 230-231.

– . & Eisenberg, J. F. 1982. Elephas maximus. Mammalian Species 182, 1-8.

– . & Eisenberg, J. F. 2000. Intelligence and survival. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 134-137.

– . & Fisher, D. C. 2000. Extinction of the elephant’s “ancestors”. In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 64-65.

– . & Marchant, G. H. 2001. Hyoid apparatus: a little known complex of bones and its “contribution” to proboscidean evolution. In The World of Elephants – International Congress, Rome 2001, pp. 668-675.

– ., Sanders, W. J. & Tassy, P. 2001. Elephants and other proboscideans: a summary of recent findings and new taxonomic suggestions. In The World of Elephants – International Congress, Rome 2001, pp. 676-679.

– . & Shoshani, S. L. 2000. What is an elephant? In Shoshani, J. (ed) Elephants. Checkmark Books (New York), pp. 14-15.

– ., Walter, R. C., Abraha, M., Berhe, S., Tassy, P. Sanders, W. J., Marchant, G. H. Libsekal, Y. Ghirmai, T. & Zinnert, D. 2006. A proboscidean from the late Oligocene of Eritrea, a “missing link” between early Elephantiformes and Elephantimorpha, and biogeographic implications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 17296-17301.

Yang, H., Golenberg, E. M. & Shoshani, J. 1996. Phylogenetic resolution within the Elephantidae using fossil DNA sequence from the American mastodon (Mammut americanum) as an outgroup. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 93, 1190-1194.

– ., Golenberg, E. M. & Shoshani, J. 1997. Proboscidean DNA from museum and fossil specimens: an assessment of ancient DNA extraction and amplification techniques. Biochemical Genetics 35, 165-179.

Comments

  1. #1 Anthony Docimo
    May 23, 2008

    *minute of silence*

    I’d never heard of him before, but I’ve no doubt he’ll be missed.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    May 23, 2008

    I have read some of his articles some years ago and was quite impressed and remembered the name well. The news saddens me.

  3. #3 Dior
    May 23, 2008

    I’ve never really been fascinated with elephants, but your post made me sad I did not here of this man when he was alive. Thank you for making his work available to us, and to all bloggers, when you have a hero, let’s talk about them before the end. Celebrating a great life and tragic, useless death is good, but let’s not wait until then. Again thanks.

  4. #4 Jaime A. Headden
    May 23, 2008

    I corresponded with Shoshani once, and briefly, when I was asking for literature on Aardvarks. He supplied me with help on finding the appropriate literature.

    I was terribly saddened with his loss, especially in such a brutal, senseless, and impersonal way. It makes you hate the people who would do this casually for such an effect.

  5. #5 johannes
    May 24, 2008

    This are terrible news.

  6. #6 Emile
    May 24, 2008

    I read several of his articles in preparation for the Deinotherium piece. They were quite excellent.

    Prof. Shoshani’s death is very sad, especially the horrific way it had to happen.

  7. #7 Graham King
    May 25, 2008

    A touching tribute, Darren, a different kind of piece well worthy of inclusion along with the more usual (also excellent) content of your blog.

    It made me want to look into his work and that I would like to have known the man himself. What higher praise or more fitting tribute could there be than writing that has that effect.

    Thanks Darren for sharing that.

  8. #8 chris wemmer
    May 26, 2008

    Hezy was a man of tremendous energy and persistence, and was TOTALLY into elephants. He had an enormous reprint collection on the Proboscidea, and for a while he was looking for its final home, where he could make use of it after retirement. That’s when he came to the National Zoo’s Conservation & Research Center, where I was working. But not long after that he took off for Africa. He told me that his interest in elephants was awakened as a child by a book about an elephant and its boy mahout, written by a Scandinavian — unfortunately I can’t recall the title. He read it countless times. He certainly made his mark in elephantology, but I know he had at least a hundred unfinished projects. A shame we have lost him.

  9. #9 Darren Naish
    May 26, 2008

    Thanks for the comments everyone. Chris: the book was Burma Boy by Willis Lindquist. While written for children, Prof. Shoshani said that it was written by someone who really knew a massive amount about elephants.

  10. #10 Michael
    October 5, 2008

    Hezy was my 7th grade science teacher’s husband. He once gave a presentation at my school and I think there are few who would forget his enthusisasm for elephants. I’m very saddened to hear of his passing.

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