Taxonomic status and paleoecology of Rusingoryx atopocranion (Mammalia, Artiodactyla), an extinct Pleistocene bovid from Rusinga Island, Kenya

J. Tyler Faith, Jonah N. Choiniere, Christian A. Tryon, Daniel J. Peppe, David L. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rusingoryx atopocranion is a poorly known extinct alcelaphine bovid, documented in Pleistocene deposits associated with Middle Stone Age artifacts on Rusinga Island, Kenya. Following its initial description, Rusingoryx was subsumed into Megalotragus, which includes the extinct giant wildebeests, on the basis of its cranial architecture. Renewed investigations of the Pleistocene deposits on Rusinga Island recovered a large sample of Rusingoryx specimens that provide new taxonomic and paleoecological insight. This study (1) reviews the morphological and phylogenetic evidence concerning the taxonomic status of Rusingoryx and (2) evaluates its paleoecology and dietary habits. The morphology and phylogenetic data indicate that Rusingoryx is distinct from Megalotragus; they likely shared a common ancestor in the late Pliocene. Ecomorphology and mesowear analysis point to a specialized grazing adaptation, and its association with arid-adapted ungulates suggests a preference for arid grasslands. The confirmation of Rusingoryx as a valid taxonomic entity, together with the presence of other extinct taxa (including Megalotragus) on Rusinga Island, suggests an increasingly complex pattern of ungulate biogeography and extinctions in the late Quaternary of East Africa. Rusingoryx appears to have been part of an arid-adapted faunal community that potentially persisted in East Africa until the onset of the Holocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-707
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Research
Volume75
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2011

Keywords

  • Ecomorphology
  • Lake Victoria
  • Megalotragus
  • Mesowear
  • Phylogenetic systematics
  • Quaternary extinctions

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