Monday 25 November 2013

A new species of fossil Pig from the early Pleistocene of Ethiopia.

Pigs (Suidae) are found throughout the Old World. They are members of the Artiodactyla, the group that also includes Cattle, Deer and Antelopes (and, curiously, Whales), though they are considered less highly derived than other members of the group, lacking a rumen (additional stomach compartment) and retaining four toes on each foot (though two of these are held permanently above the ground). The earliest fossil Pigs appear in the Oligocene of Asia.

In a forthcoming paper in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, available online from 26 July 2013, Antoine Souron of the Institut de Paléoprimatologie, Paléontologie Humaine: Évolution et Paléoenvironnements at the Université de Poitiers and the Human Evolution Research Center at the The University of California, BerkeleyJean-Renaud Boisserie also of the Institut de Paléoprimatologie, Paléontologie Humaine: Évolution et Paléoenvironnements at the Université de Poitiers as well as the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Ambassade de France en Éthiopie, and Tim White of the Human Evolution Research Center and Department of Integrative Biology at The University of California, Berkeley, describe a new species of fossil Pig from the early Pleistocene of the Middle Awash region  of the Afar Depression in northern Ethiopia.

The new species is placed in the genus Kolpochoerus, which has eight previously described species from the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Africa, and which is thought to be ancestral to the modern Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), and is given the specific name phillipi, in honour of the South African paleoanthropologist Phillip Tobias of the University of the Witwatersrand, who passed away in 2012.

Kolpochoerus phillipi is described from a partial cranium and associated mandible and a second partial mandible, as well as a series of detached teeth. It is similar in size to the skull of a modern Giant Forest Hog, and is thought to be about 2.5 million years old.

Cranium of Kolpochoerus phillipi in (A) dorsal, (B) ventral, (C) anterior, and (D) lateral views. Souron et al. (2013).

Mandible of Kolpochoerus phillipi in (A) dorsal, (B) anterior, and (C) lateral views. Souron et al. (2013).

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