The Discovery of Extinct Hippopotami Fossils in Anjohibe Cave
Huminsky, Isabella C. 1995--
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Madagascar is a country known for its incredible biodiversity, but it has lost the majority of its distinctive megafauna. In a progressive extinction event still not well understood, Madagascar lost its giant lemurs, hippopotami, crocodylians, elephant birds and tortoises species. This research project focuses on the extinction of the pygmy hippopotami from Anjohibe cave, and includes the description of multiple adult individuals as well as one juvenile. There are currently three extinct hippo species described from the island; Hippopotamus madagascariensis, Hippopotamus lemerlei, and Hippopotamus laloumena. Evidence from this study, combined with our understanding of species’ distributions, suggests that the species discovered in Anjohibe Cave was Hippopotamus madagascariensis. Recent habitat transformation and degradation in this region has changed the habitat around the cave system; while it used to be very forested and moist, it is currently much drier and degraded. Given the strong build of the skull, it can be concluded that this species was likely more land-based. The possible role of habitat change in the extinction of this species, as well as hunting, is explored. Dating of hippopotamus fossils indicate that many of these animals were alive when humans came, and that they overlapped for at least a millennium.