Creatures as large as elephants are unusual; it takes a long time to evolve such size.
How long does it take for a mammal as small as a mouse to evolve into something as large as an elephant? A really, really long time, a recent study has found: about 24 million generations, at minimum.
To get that number, researchers looked at the evolution of body mass over the last 70 million years, after the dinosaurs went extinct and surviving animals expanded into the ecological niches they left behind. That estimate is far longer than earlier estimates, which, extrapolating from bursts of super-fast evolution in mice, range from just 200,000 to 2 million generations. Such speedy evolution, in actuality, is probably not sustainable over the long term—hence the lengthy new estimate.