Tuesday 10 June 2014

A new species of Musk Ox from the Late Miocene of Gansu Province, China.

A diverse fauna of Musk Oxen (Ovibovines) is known from the Late Miocene of China, each showing distinct and specialized horn cores (the bone core upon which the keratin horn is supported; the diversity of horn core shapes can be used to infer a diversity of horn shapes, even in the absence of horns), but otherwise quite similar. One of these early Musk Oxen is Shaanxispira, to date known from two species from the Bahe Formation of Shaanxi Province. Shaanxispira are distinguished by their long, straight, divergent horn cores with a distinct keel.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 8 May 2014, Qinqin Shi of the Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wen He and Shanqin Chen of the Hezheng Paleozoological Museum, describe a third species of Shaanxispira from the Late Miocene Liushu Formation in the Linxia Basin of Gansu Province.

The new species is named Shaanxispira linxiaensis, meaning from Linxia. The species is described from a single, well-preserved skull, lacking only the tips of the horn cores, the tip of the muzzle and a single tooth. There is slight damage to the right maxilla and left squamosal.

Skull of Shaanxispira linxiaensis: (A) dorsal view, (B) left lateral view, (C) posterior view; the dashed lines show the lateral profile of the frontals; the shadows indicate the parts mended with plaster. Abbreviations: AB, auditory bulla; EAD, external auditory duct; EF, ethmoidal fissure; F, frontal; FM, foramen magnum; FT, facial tuberosity; HC, horn-core; HF, hyoid fossa; K, antero-medial keel of the horn-core; L, lachrymal; LF, lachrymal foramina; IoF, infraorbital foramen; M, maxilla; Mas, mastoid exposure; N, nasal; NC, nuchal crest; O, occipital; OC, occipital condyle; OrbR, orbital rim; Pa, parietal; PoP, paroccipital process; Preof, preorbital fossa; SoF, supraorbital foramen; SoG, supraorbital groove; SpO, supraoccipital; Sq, squamosal; TL, temporal line; Z, zygomatic; ZA, zygomatic arch. Shi et al. (2014).

This is the first member of the genus discovered from outside the Lantian area of Shaanxi Province, and is the best-preserved specimen of a member of the genus to date, which should help to understand the relationship between this and other Miocene Musk Oxen.

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