Saturday 28 December 2013

A new species of Fox from the Pleisticene of Gauteng Province, SouthAfrica.

Foxes (Vulpini) are a subgroup of the Dog Family, Canidae, found in North America, Eurasia and Africa (South American Foxes are a separate group, more closely related to True Dogs than to other Foxes). The group first appear in the fossil record in the Late Miocene (about 10.5 million years ago) in North America, where they are thought to have originated. The oldest known Foxes from outside North America appear in Central Africa in deposits about 7 million years in age, suggesting that the group must have spread across Eurasia and the Middle East by this time, though the earliest known Eurasian Foxes are much younger.

In a paper published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa on 16 January 2013, a team of scientists led by Adam Hartstone-Rose of the Pennsylvania State University Altoona, descibe a new species of Fox from the Early Pleistocene Malapa Cave locality in Gauteng Province, South Africa.

The new species is named Vulpes skinneri, in honour of the late John Dawson Skinner, long-time director of the University of Pretoria Mammal Research Institute and author of many seminal works on African mammals.The specimens referred to the new species were initially refered to the species Vulpes chama when they were first recorded in 2011, but closer examination suggests that they are from a separate species.

Left mandible of Vulpes skinneri in (A) superior, (B) lateral, (C) medial and (D) posterior views. Hartstone-Rose et al. (2013).

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