About the SA Blog Network

Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct
Tetrapod Zoology Home

Duikers once more

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

Time for another classic from the archives. This article originally appeared on Tet Zoo ver 2 back in August 2008 (my god… about six years ago), and appears here in tweaked, updated form.

A duiker montage. L to r: Zebra duiker (by Kispál Attila), Yellow-backed duiker (by Raul 654), Maxwell's duiker (by Stavenn). Zebra duiker icensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. Yellow-backed duiker and Maxwell's duiker licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Duikers or cephalophines are an entirely African group of bovids, and so far as we know they have never gotten out of Africa [images above by Kispál Attila, Raul654 and Stavenn]. Virtually nothing is known of their early history. There’s a partial maxilla and a molar from the Miocene, and a few Pliocene and Pleistocene records, some of which are of extant species. The Miocene molar is interesting as it’s from northern Africa, where no duikers occur today. However, Manlius (2001) suggested that an animal depicted in a 4th dynasty hunting scene (dating to c. 2561-2459 BCE) at Atet’s tomb in Meidum, Egypt, is a Jentink’s duiker Cephalophus jentinki, and proposed on the basis of this that an isolated population of this species might have persisted in Egypt until at least this time. Flores (2001) pointed out that duiker bones were identified from an Egyptian tomb in 1948, perhaps providing support for this idea. Given the present range of C. jentinki (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast), a purported presence in ancient Egypt is very difficult to believe, but maybe these discoveries do show that duikers did occur north of the Sahara until recently.

Case of duikers at Tring. Photo from The Art of Jane Tomlinson.

Phylogenetic work suggests that duikers belong to four distinct lineages. Maxwell’s duiker Philantomba maxwellii and the Blue duiker P. monticola – together sometimes called the blue duikers or the ‘conservative dwarfs’ – seem to form a clade that is the sister-group to all other duikers. They differ from the others in lacking inguinal glands, in having an untufted tail and in other features. They were generally lumped into Cephalophus for much of the latter part of the 20th century, but the view that they deserve their own genus – Philantomba – is now popular again (the name was first published in 1840), and the distinct status and monophyly of this lineage has been supported by most authors who have worked on duiker phylogeny and systematics in recent years (Jansen van Vuuren & Robinson 2001, Colyn et al. 2010, Bibi 2013). A distinct duiker of this sort, recognised in a bushmeat market in Benin in November 2003, eventually led to the recent recognition of a third Philantomba species: Walter’s duiker P. walteri (Colyn et al. 2010). The adjacent image shows the duiker case at the Walter Rothschild Museum in Tring. From The Art of Jane Tomlinson.

Common duiker in profile (don't ask which subspecies: I assume it's the nominate one). Image in public domain.

A widespread and very successful savannah specialist (the Bush duiker, Grey duiker, Common duiker or Grimm’s duiker Sylvicapra grimmia: over 40 subspecies have been named) forms the sister-taxon to a combined giant duiker and red duiker clade (Jansen van Vuuren & Robinson 2001). The phylogenetic position of the Zebra duiker and Ader’s duiker C. adersi are uncertain and they may represent distinct lineages within the giant duiker + red duiker clade.

Containing about 20 species and a substantially greater number of subspecies, the duiker radiation appears to have occurred rapidly and recently (post-Miocene), with the amount of divergence between the major lineages being relatively minor. The exact placement of duikers within Bovidae is uncertain but they’re almost certainly antilopines close to gazelles, dwarf antelopes, klipspringers and so on (Hassanin & Douzery 1999a, b, Price et al. 2005, Bibi 2013). Their small size and ‘slinker’ ecomorphotype (read on) have generally led to the assumption that they’re primitive. However, their complex brains, reduced horns, and shortened faces led Kingdon (1997) to suggest that they’re dwarfed from larger ancestors rather than primitive, and the genetic and fossil data do suggest that they’re a young group. Indeed, there are no indications from their phylogenetic position, genetics or fossil record that they’re more than 10 million years old (Bibi 2013). They are not, so far as we can tell, ancient, late-surviving relicts of an earlier stage in bovid evolution or anything like that.

Substantially simplified bovid phylogeny from one of my hoofed mammal talks. The approximate structure shown here matches with recent phylogenetic analyses of the group (e.g., Bibi 2013). Authors differ as to whether they treat the various names shown here as 'subfamilies' or 'tribes' or whatever.

Ranging in size from about 4 to about 80 kg, duikers include diurnal, cathemeral and nocturnal species (cathemeral animals are active at any hour). Mostly forest dwellers, they also include savannah species as well as taxa that frequent montane environments (Ruwenzori duiker C. rubidus) and swamps (Black-fronted duiker C. nigrifrons). Some species have been reported to climb on sloping tree trunks. Most species are coloured in reds and browns but some are blackish.

Beautiful, boldly patterned Jentink's duiker, largest member of the group. Image (c) Brent Huffman, from Ultimate Ungulate.

Jentink’s duiker, the largest member of the group, has a black head and neck, a white collar over the shoulders, and a grizzled grey body. Despite its size and striking appearance, it wasn’t scientifically discovered until 1884 and not named until 1892 [adjacent photo of Jentink’s duiker from here on Ultimate Ungulate]. Reddish crests that virtually conceal the small, posteriorly placed horns are common. Apparently, duikers have enormous hearts, these being about twice as large, proportionally, as those of humans (Ralls 1973). I really wonder why this is – I can’t remember if Ralls (1973) provides any sort of explanation.

Duikers are what is known as slinkers: mostly small-bodied, they rely on concealment and rapid acts of explosive saltation to avoid and escape predators, they are highly territorial, monogamous, and with sexes that (generally) are similarly sized* and similarly armed (slinking has also been termed the ‘microcursorial adaptive syndrome’, but that ain’t so catchy). The ability of duikers to dive rapidly into deep cover explains their common name (it’s Afrikaans for diver). It’s apparently pronounced like ‘biker’, and not ‘doy-kah’ as I’ve been saying for the last few decades. Duikers possess large preorbital (or maxillary) glands as well as pedal glands and (in some) inguinal (= groin) glands, and they frequently mark objects in their territory, in some cases doing so about every 10 minutes. The preorbital glands are obvious in some of the photos used here.

* Female duikers are often up to 4% bigger than males.

Blue duiker profile. I don't think that lump near the mouth is a normal feature of the species. Image by derekkeats, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Like all slinkers, duikers specialise on high quality food like leaves and fruits, and fungi and bark are also eaten. They also eat insects and carrion, and regularly kill and eat frogs, small mammals, lizards, and birds. That’s right: omnivorous bovids. Ants were found to make up over 10% of the stomach contents (dry weight) of Blue duiker (Ronald & Kranz 2001) and captive animals are fed dog food in addition to plants (Nowak 1999) [adjacent Blue duiker image by derekkeats]. Some duiker species have been reported to sometimes toy with prey in the same way that domestic cats do.

Cameratrap image of an Abbot's duiker with a frog in its mouth, of course. Image (c) Francesco Rivero, this version from Ultimate Ungulate.

In Angola, people believe that the Yellow-backed duiker C. sylvicultor eats the meat of Bell’s hinge-backed tortoise Kinixys belliana by forcibly blasting the tortoise’s body out of the shell (Lumpkin & Kranz 1984). I don’t think this is true but wish it was. The photo shown above – from Rovero et al. (2005) – shows an Abbott’s duiker C. spadix photographed in the Udzungwa Mountains of southern Tanzania. This is one of the first photos ever taken of this species in the wild (Rovero et al. 2005), and shows the duiker eating a frog (possibly a Tanzanian torrent frog Arthroleptis yakusini). Since this photo was taken, cameratrap and DNA data collected from dung has demonstrated the presence of three additional populations of the species in the Udzungwa Mountains (Jones & Bowkett 2012), so it’s known to be more widely distributed than used to be thought.

While duikers might seem like the sort of mammals that would usually be regarded as ‘less advanced’ than the big, noble antelopes that live out on the sunny plains (and, indeed, some workers have interpreted things this way), there are indications from duiker anatomy and behaviour that they are actually among the smartest and most complex of bovids: if you like, the ‘most advanced’. Their brains are large and complex and are said to be the biggest (proportionally) of all the bovids (hypothesis: has their evolution been driven by paedomorphosis?). A relatively long gestation and slow growth rate may be consequences of a prolonged learning period (Kingdon 1997), and it seems that duikers have to learn to predict and exploit the behaviour of herbivorous canopy animals, like monkeys, fruit bats and birds. The fruits that these animals drop are eaten by the duikers.

Philantomba maxwellii skull. Image (c) University of Edinburgh.

Spinage (1986) wrote about a Common duiker that he raised as a pet and later released into the wild. It then disappeared completely, until (two months later) a grass fire destroyed all the vegetation that the duiker would have been familiar with. The duiker now reappeared, standing in the open behind the house where it had been reared, looking dejected. In a charred and blackened environment, Spinage suggested that the duiker had returned to the only familiar place. He petted it, and it went away, but when seen again on later occasions it would run up to him and stand to be stroked (Spinage 1986, p. 134) [adjacent image shows skull of Maxwell's duiker. Image (c) University of Edinburgh, from here].

Numerous animals are being killed at unsustainable rates across Africa for the bushmeat and fetish trades. This photo (from Colyn et al. 2010) shows numerous species encountered in a market; the four duiker heads in the middle belong to the then-brand-new Walter’s duiker.

What does the future hold for this fascinating group of little antelopes? Things are not altogether good, since evidence suggests that duikers are being harvested at unsustainable rates for the bushmeat trade; some species have been severely depleted from parts of their range as a consequence (van Vliet et al. 2007). Several studies have examined the impact of hunting on duiker populations: some emphasise how difficult it is to reasonable assess the rate and impact of hunting, given the many poorly understood and poorly monitored variables (van Vliet & Nasi 2008). There are also indications that hunting in some places is only a problem when its intensity is focused due to a concentration of people brought about by road construction through the forest: when people are not so concentrated their hunting forays occur over much wider areas, resulting in perhaps sustainable levels of predation on duikers (Yasuoka 2006). Whatever, several duiker species are endangered and it seems unlikely that they will persist into the future given current rates of exploitation. Indeed, most species are now regarded as being at risk.

For more on pecoran artiodactyls at Tet Zoo, see…

Refs – -

Bibi, F. 2013. A multi-calibrated mitochondrial phylogeny of extant Bovidae (Artiodactyla, Ruminantia) and the importance of the fossil record to systematics. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13: 166.

Colyn, M., Hulselmans, J., Sonet, G., Oude, P., de Winter, J., Natta, A., Tamás Nagy, Z. & Verheyen, E. K. 2010. Discovery of a new duiker species (Bovidae: Cephalophinae) from the Dahomey Gap, West Africa. Zootaxa 2637,1-30.

Flores, D. V. 2001. More about duikers in ancient Egypt. Science 292, 440.

Hassanin, A. & Douzery, J. P. 1999a. Evolutionary affinities of the enigmatic saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) in the context of the molecular phylogeny of Bovidae. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 266, 893-900.

- . & Douzery, J. P. 1999b. The tribal radiation of the family Bovidae (Artiodactyla) and the evolution of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 13, 227-243.

Jansen van Vuuren, B. & Robinson, T. J. 2001. Retrieval of four adaptive lineages in duiker antelope: evidence from mitochondrial DNA sequences and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 20, 409-425.

Jones, T. & Bowkett, A. E. 2012. New populations of an Endangered Tanzanian antelope confirmed using DNA and camera traps. Oryx 46, 14-15.

Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego.

Lumpkin, S. & Kranz, K. R. 1984. Cephalophus sylvicultor. Mammalian Species 225, 1-7.

Manlius, N. 2001. Were there duikers in ancient Egypt? Science 291, 1701.

Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Volume II. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Price, S. A., Bininda-Emonds, O. R. P. & Gittleman, J. L. 2005. A complete phylogeny of the whales, dolphins and even-toed hoofed mammals (Cetartiodactyla). Biological Reviews 80, 445-473.

Ralls, K. 1973. Cephalophus maxwelli. Mammalian Species 31, 1-4.

Ronald. K. & Kranz, K. 2001. Duikers. In MacDonald, D. (ed) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press (Oxford), pp. 542-545.

Rovero, F., Jones, T. & Sanderson, J. 2005. Notes on Abbott’s duiker (Cephalophus spadix True 1890) and other forest antelopes of Mwanihana Forest, Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania, as revealed by camera-trapping and direct observations. Tropical Zoology 18, 13-23.

Spinage, C. A. 1986. The Natural History of Antelopes. Christopher Helm, London.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Rights & Permissions

Comments 57 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Heteromeles 6:34 pm 06/30/2014

    Do they swim, like chevrotains, or are they strictly terrestrial? I think it’s neat that the Old World tropics gave us tiny ruminants, while the New World tropics gave us large rodents like pacas and agoutis. Wonder how brain size compares among agoutis, chevrotains, and duikers? That would give us some notion of whether large brain size goes with this kind of niche, or whether duikers are special and different.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Tayo Bethel 8:58 pm 06/30/2014

    According to our all knowing friend Google … no mention of aquatic duikers. THe question of large brains in slinker ecomorphs is an interesting one. None of the large rodents have been noted as being particularly large-brained. On the other hand, the forest is a three-dimentional environment, and environmental complexity has been shown to influence brain complexity. Also, omnivory and a high level of intelligence seem to coincide quite often–think suids, canids, corvids, primates.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:34 am 07/1/2014

    Beautiful animals! BTW, is the lower-right duiker in the Tring case a yellow-backed duiker which got bleached?

    Link to this
  4. 4. Duikers » Wildlife & Nature Conservation 5:17 am 07/1/2014

    [...] Duikers 1 Minute Ago Intresting article – with nice photos and graphs – about Duikers : Duikers once more | Tetrapod Zoology, Scientific American Blog Network [...]

    Link to this
  5. 5. naishd 10:34 am 07/1/2014

    Thanks for comments. I’ve never heard of aquatic behaviour of any sort in a duiker, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been reported. Will check the literature…

    And (comment # 3): yes, I’m pretty sure that the animal at lower right in the case is indeed a very bleached Yellow-back duiker.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Garoshi 12:33 pm 07/1/2014

    I think for better comparison with brain size of rodents, you would need measure the brain size relative to body mass of the very large prehistoric rodents (Josephoartigasia, Telicomys, Phoberomys) although for these the remains are largely fragmentary.

    Link to this
  7. 7. irenedelse 2:45 pm 07/1/2014

    That Abbot’s duiker picture is terrifying! :-)

    About the possibility of a remnant population of Jentink’s duiker (Cephalophus jentinki) in Egypt about 4000 years ago: if this is confirmed, I wonder if it means that these duikers were at a time largely distributed in North Africa, or if they were always a sub-Saharan species (possibly with more extension to the East, as far as the Great Lakes region) and that they followed the Nile valley northward.

    Or maybe it means that ancient Egyptians had trade relations with West Africa from a very early period…

    Link to this
  8. 8. Heteromeles 3:17 pm 07/1/2014

    Okay, answering my lazy question:
    Duikers 18 to 22 g brain/kg weight,
    Agouti (Dasyprocta agouti) 6.4 g brain/kg body weight,
    Chevrotain (Tragulus javanicus) 4.75 g brain/kg body weight.

    Duikers are listed as being comparable in encephalization to some pigs and especially to peccaries. So they are different and special, and ironically (see previous discussion of Dunbar’s number), they don’t have the same social structure as peccaries. The plot thickens!

    As for trade relations between Egypt and tropical Africa, there’s also a picture of an Okapi from Persepolis c. 500 BCE. If an Okapi can make it to Iran, I suspect a duiker can make it to Egypt.

    Finlay, Barbara L., Michael N. Hersman, Richard B. Darlington. 1998. Patterns of Vertebrate Neurogenesis and the Paths of Vertebrate Evolution. Brain Behavior and Evolultion 52:232–242 (Agouti on p. 235).

    Giest, Valerius. 1998. Deer of the World: Their Evolution, Behaviour, and Ecology. (Duikers on pp. 36-37).

    Jerison, H.J. 2009. How can fossils tell us about the evolution of the neocortex. PP. 497-508 in J. H. Kaas (ed.) Evolutionary Neuroscience. Academic Press (Chevrotain on p. 500 or so).

    Link to this
  9. 9. naishd 3:27 pm 07/1/2014

    Fascinating stuff – thanks, Heteromeles. The Persepolis ‘okapi’ is no such thing: it’s a Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus. This argument has been made in print – I think in the journal Cryptozoology if memory serves.

    As for alleged duikers in northern Africa: I wonder if the Green Sahara hypothesis provides support for the possibility that duikers were once more widespread? This might only really work for Sylvicapra, though, not Cephalophus and other tropical forest duikers…

    Link to this
  10. 10. Stripeycat 3:36 pm 07/1/2014

    Whoa, Heteromeles. That’s a two-thousand year difference between the Egyptian and Persian examples (the latter is contemporary with Classical Athens, the former with the first stone buildings and little pyramids.). Maybe more to the point, it’s also the difference between the local Early Bronze Age and the high Iron Age: the Achaemenid Persian empire stretched from Eastern Europe to Afghanistan; and trade routes (overland, by river, or by sea) were well established to India, China via India, the Horn of Africa, Arabia, West Africa, Central Europe, much of France, the Iberian peninsula, and even Cornwall.

    Link to this
  11. 11. irenedelse 4:28 pm 07/1/2014

    Nilgai looks to me like a better fit for this Persepolis sculpture than okapi. The general silhouette but also the head are unlike any okapi’s.

    Talking of a green Sarara: wasn’t the Sahara covered with forests only until the early Miocene, when it started becoming drier? After that, even if there were more humid periods (as during the Neolithic age, up to the time of the first Pharaohs), this didn’t mean a return of the forests but rather more savanna-like conditions. Or so I seem to remember from geology class. Cephalophus would have had a hard time there, unless they are more versatile than what we’ve seen of them now that they only survive in less populated areas. But if they were able to subsist for a time outside the dense forest, they might have spread across the grasslands of the Sahara in the Holocene and established themselves in the more humid areas like the Fayum. At least this is how I understand N. Manlius’s 2001 paper.

    Of course this all depends on his interpretation of the mural painting, particularly of his contention that because the duiker is represented in the same panel as an oryx and other antelopes, all in naturalistic attitudes, it means that the scene is realistic and that the artist had seen the duiker alive in the wild. Well, sorry, I don’t know enough about the conventions of Egyptian art to comment on the realism, but since oryxes and Jentink’s duikers don’t normally live in the same environment, it’s unlikely for hunters to have seen them together. So the scene is construed by the artist, and it’s tricky to conclude anything from it on the survival of duikers in Egypt at the time.

    Link to this
  12. 12. Heteromeles 4:50 pm 07/1/2014

    @Stripeycat: Um no. By the end of the Bronze Age, the smelters in the Middle East getting copper and tin from Afghanistan and Cornwall, and they were exporting bronze to Scandinavia (look up works by Kristian Kristiansen). So no, I don’t think it’s valid to assume that Iron Age people were more widely traveled than those of the Bronze Age.

    Tin and copper are very seldom found near each other, because they require different geological settings. The very few places that tin and copper were within trekking distance of each other were where bronze ages started (namely Anatolia, northern China, and Thailand. I’m not sure it works in the Andes or Mexico because their Bronze Ages started so late). The early Anatolian tin deposits were soon exhausted, and as a result, long distance international trade became a mainstay of the European Bronze Age cultures. For example, the bronze that went to Scandinavia probably was in trade for things like amber.

    Africa’s a different place, because they seem to have gone straight from stone to iron around 1500 BCE in Nigeria, and there’s no evidence of even a secondary African Bronze Age. Still, there’s ample, if enigmatic, evidence for agricultural civilization all around the Congo basin (in the form of pottery), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Egyptians were trading deep into Africa for Ivory and whatever else.

    Link to this
  13. 13. naishd 4:55 pm 07/1/2014

    Green sahara (with reference to comment # 10): yes, I think the idea is that you should imagine a patchwork of woodland, wooded grassland and grassland covering the region (depending on which time zone you’re interested in). Holocene models predict a grassland zone between the 20-30 deg lat lines, and a wooded grassland one between 20-10 deg lat. All very nice if you’re a Savannah elephant or Common duiker… not so great if you’re a tropical forest duiker.

    Link to this
  14. 14. Zoovolunteer 5:21 pm 07/1/2014

    Given the variety of habitats duikers currently inhabit, I would think that it is perhaps more likely that a now-extinct species lived in the Nile valley (perhaps in swamps in the delta?) rather than an extant species well outside its current range. Were the duiker teeth recovered identified to species/ genus level? It might be possible I suppose to do a DNA analysis from preserved specimens.

    Link to this
  15. 15. irenedelse 5:54 pm 07/1/2014


    According to D.V. Flores, 2001, a skull and leg bone identified as belonging to a yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus sylvicultor) were found in the 1930s by a British expedition, in a Pre-Dynastic Egyptian tomb dating around 3000 BCE. No mention of any DNA analysis however. C. sylvicultor being a forest duiker, the same problems arise as with C. jentinki.

    Flores also warns that identification of other animal remains found by this expedition were later corrected so I think there’s still a doubt about those elusive Egyptian duikers.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Neil K. 6:06 pm 07/1/2014

    Back on the brain-size thing: Orliac and Gilissen (2012) provide brain and body size numbers for artiodactyls. Looking at their EQ calculations, duikers do near the top of the pack with EQs ranging from 1.11 to 1.65, vs. an average artiodactyl EQ of 0.93. However, Antilocapra edges them out for the top slot (1.72), which is VERY interesting but topic for another time I guess. There are a handful of other, mostly small, artiodactyls that overlap with duikers in EQ: e.g. Neotragus, Capreolus. Peccaries are also up there (EQ=1.1) but Sus is actually a little below average (0.88).

    I think EQ is theoretically corrected for allometry by log transformation but given that small sized animals dominate the top EQ bracket I imagine there is still a scaling effect at work. Maybe there’s something to Darren’s suggestion of paedomorphosis? It would be interesting to see how EQ changes through ontogeny in other artiodactyls.

    Another interesting aspect to Orliac and Gilissen is that all of the pre-Holocene artiodactyls in their dataset have pretty low EQs (EQ<1). This includes things like Diacodexis which I have seen compared to duikers in overall build and perhaps lifestyle (i.e. ‘slinkers’ for want of a better name). So perhaps habitat and ecology are not major factors here. At least another line of evidence that duikers aren’t just early Cenozoic throwbacks.

    One more thought for this epic comment, regarding Heteromeles’ comment #1. I suppose rodents and ruminants have maybe partitioned ‘slinkerdom’ between continents. But don’t forget about pudus and pouched rats!

    OK, that’s my comment for 2014, see you guys next year.

    Orliac, M. J., & Gilissen, E. (2012). Virtual endocranial cast of earliest Eocene Diacodexis (Artiodactyla, Mammalia) and morphological diversity of early artiodactyl brains. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, doi: rspb20121156.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Yodelling Cyclist 6:20 pm 07/1/2014

    With that quality of post, please come more often.

    Link to this
  18. 18. naishd 6:24 pm 07/1/2014

    Seconded. Stop pissing around with the Triassic, Neil, and spend more time in the Tet Zoo comments field :)

    Link to this
  19. 19. Yodelling Cyclist 6:36 pm 07/1/2014

    Triassic you say? Any sign of bears?

    Link to this
  20. 20. Heteromeles 6:48 pm 07/1/2014

    @YC: Don’t scare him off, he was classing up the joint! :D

    Link to this
  21. 21. Yodelling Cyclist 8:05 pm 07/1/2014

    Sorry, sorry.

    Link to this
  22. 22. Tayo Bethel 12:06 am 07/2/2014

    Perhaps duikers descended from more social ancestors? SOmehow i dont think that would acount for their large brains though. Environmental complexity does, however, encourage behavioral flexibility, and perhaps omnivory provides energy more readily for a large brain. Allspeculation on my part, but perhaps these speculations could be tested.
    Asfor duikersin Egypt:
    Trade between Egypt and West Africa isnt too unlikely. Perhaps the Egyptians discovered that, like the gentleman so many millennia later, that duikers made appealing pets. One can wellimagine some wealthy Egyptian keeping a duiker as a pet.

    Link to this
  23. 23. Yodelling Cyclist 1:09 am 07/2/2014

    Well, the ancient Egyptians were famously keen on domesticating anything and everything…

    Link to this
  24. 24. Andreas Johansson 1:39 am 07/2/2014

    There’s supposed to be pygmies depicted in ancient Egyptian art, which’d be another point in favour of Central African trade contacts.

    Link to this
  25. 25. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:36 am 07/2/2014

    These ‘okapi’ and ‘duiker’ were already discussed before.

    So-called ‘okapi’ is young scimitar-horned oryx. Archeologists rarely think that immature oryx has short horns. Ancient Egyptians semi-domesticated oryx, which solves the problem how one was transported to Assyria on a leash. And solves all the other problems about supposed okapi (the animal is depicted as uni-colored not striped, absence of more common Central African animals and artifacts in Egyptian culture, unlikehood of transporting delicate browsing okapi, which is very difficult to keep even in modern zoos).

    So-called ‘Jentink’s duiker’ is very unclear picture, and can be simply black-and-white sheep or goat.

    The supposed bone of Yellow-backed Duiker is interesting, but I would welcome some confirmation of it’s identification. If the specimen is not lost, naturally. Both Yellow-backed and Jentink’s are rainforest duikers, and rainforest anywhere near Ancient Egypt is very long shot.

    Link to this
  26. 26. irenedelse 4:56 am 07/2/2014

    Thanks, Jerzy!

    Note to self: read the previous articles in the list, plus the comments. ;-)

    Also, archaeologists identifying animals on ancient paintings should definitively be taken with a grain of crystalline NaCl.

    Link to this
  27. 27. irenedelse 5:00 am 07/2/2014

    (Oh, wait, no link to another article in this post. Anyway, checking is not a bad idea. Case in point. Ahem.)

    Link to this
  28. 28. Jerzy v. 3.0. 5:18 am 07/2/2014

    BTW, a candy to discuss: DNA study of bigfoot and yeti samples: ;)

    Link to this
  29. 29. naishd 10:40 am 07/2/2014

    With reference to comment # 27, the paper itself…

    Sykes, B. C., Rhettman A. Mullis, R. A., Christophe Hagenmuller, C., Melton T. W. & Sartori, M. 2014. Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0161

    Is available for free – it’s open access! – here.

    As John and I just said on the podcast (ep 28), the results of this paper are still being mis-interpreted by some cryptozoologists. The presence of ‘ancient polar bear’ genes in the Himalayan region does not indicate the presence of a cryptic ‘unknown bear’ population – instead, it means that some animals that look like brown bears actually contain polar bear DNA from ancient hybridisation events. This is interesting, but it’s not really that novel (there are a quite a few brown bear populations that also reveal evidence for hybridisation).

    Link to this
  30. 30. irenedelse 11:10 am 07/2/2014

    “Yeti researchers bring light to past sexual indiscretions of Himalayan brown bears.”

    Correct science still makes for a catchy headline, see!

    Link to this
  31. 31. Stripeycat 2:27 pm 07/2/2014

    Heteromeles: I don’t like to totally derail threads, but I’m going to anyway ;) I do get the importance of not assuming everyone in prehistory was primitive, but trade in the early Med was one of my interests in Uni (albeit at the later (latest Bronze/early Iron Age) date you refer to), and if you’re right this will revolutionise the field as much as Finley did.

    The 4th Dynasty is early Bronze age (EBA3, from the given dates), and the only evidence I’m aware of for that kind of long distance trade with eg Cornwall is still 12-13 centuries years later: 2500BC there’s no evidence for tin use at all in Britain, iirc.

    By the way, the Anatolian tin isn’t mined out that quickly – the site at Kestel is in use to c2000BC, and maybe a little later (ie early Middle Bronze Age). When do the Assyrian imports date to? It could also be that there’s price competition that makes the imports along existing trade-routes viable.

    I’m not so sure on Afghanistan (my focus at Uni was E. Med., not the Middle East proper), but I understood the trade was established overland in the Chalcolithic for gemstones, and even by the period under discussion is still overland between Mesopotamia and Egypt, and thus isn’t relevant to marine trade discussions in Egypt. It’s not theoretically impossible that there’s trade going from sub-Saharan Africa either to India or Mesopotamia, and then on by other routes, but I’m not aware of any evidence either, and that early it’s a pretty extreme hypothesis: the earliest evidence I’m aware of for the Indus-Mesopotamia sea route is slightly later than the dates under discussion. Note that the above does not preclude the possibility of importing tin from Afghanistan (although the lack of a sea-route will make it expensive).

    I can’t believe I forgot the Baltic earlier on! Again, though, it seems to be mostly overland in the early periods (and possibly coasting for the N. European instances).

    There’s also the question of who’d conduct the trade. I’d not volunteer to take an Egyptian ship into the Atlantic (the Med. and the Red Sea behave very differently in terms of waves especially), and the earliest Phoenician trade seems to have been c1500BC, or even later, maybe coinciding with the earliest iron age. In fact, the earliest Cornish trade evidence I know of dates from the earliest Near Eastern Iron Age. I’m not even aware of regional coasting or caravan trade along the North African littoral as early as 2500 – Egyptian trade appears focussed on Canaan and parts north and east or into Sudan, as discussed below. As far as I’m aware, you just don’t get coastal or marine trade between Eastern and Western Med. until well into the next millenium, and it doesn’t really flourish until the 1st millenium.

    Even things like shipping cedar from the northern Levant required a special mission in the 4th Dynasty, although the land trade begins in the Pre-dynastic period.

    Also Pre-dynastic, were the trade routes overland, south of Egypt. There was a 4th or 5th Dynasty military expedition up into what’s modern Sudan, and lots of trade before and after. There’s evidence that they were importing goods already brought in from further away (eg gold and perfumes from Punt), but the main target was local gold, ivory and humans. However, you don’t get the first of the marine missions to Punt (either Yemen-way, or more likely on the Horn of Africa) until into the 5th Dynasty. If going to somewhere near where they already know, up the comparatively calm Red Sea, is a once-a-century undertaking (regular trade isn’t established until the 2nd millenium), how are they going to get to the Straits of Gib., never mind navigate the Atlantic coast of Africa?

    A possibility I’ve overlooked so far is that traders were oasis-hopping through the Sahara itself. There is some evidence for this (as early as the Chalcolithic), but there’s a but. The main Egyptian routes were to the Red Sea from Thebes, and southwards into Sudan/Nubia.

    There is also movement across the Sahara further West, into the Mahgreb, from earliest times (ie before the Sahara drying), but there doesn’t seem to have been regular trade, and there isn’t any apparent contact with the Mahgreb anyway. Worth noting in any discussions of caravan trade, that it’s still reliant on equines of various kinds, and possibly human porters: camels probably aren’t domesticated yet anywhere, and certainly not in the central/west Sahara.

    Finally, I think it’s worth noting that the only Med. language words for black Africans I’m aware of derive from Nubia, Punt, or Ethiopia – it seems incredible that no-one would invent a word for west Africans if contact had been established early on (especially the Egyptians, who tended to mention individual kingdoms by name).

    Link to this
  32. 32. Heteromeles 2:47 pm 07/2/2014

    @Stripeycat: Those are all valid points, and I’m glad you made them and cleared up my blurred allusion. The basic point I was trying to make is that assuming that the people around 3100 BCE couldn’t travel for thousands of miles (whether or not they actually did) is questionable.

    Naqada 3 was right at the end of the Green Sahara period, AFAIK, so presumably trans-Saharan travel would have been easier than it is now. Given the way Egypt developed, long-distance trade is as good a hypothesis for how a duiker ended up in an Egyptian burial as is a relictual duiker population along the Nile or some nearby oasis.

    Link to this
  33. 33. Stripeycat 3:01 pm 07/2/2014

    On the subject of the other derail, the polar bear hybridisation is interesting. I also feel the Russian racoon and American black bear probably have good stories to tell – how likely are escapees from captivity versus deliberate hoaxes?

    Darren said (#28):
    As John and I just said on the podcast (ep 28), the results of this paper are still being mis-interpreted by some cryptozoologists. The presence of ‘ancient polar bear’ genes in the Himalayan region does not indicate the presence of a cryptic ‘unknown bear’ population – instead, it means that some animals that look like brown bears actually contain polar bear DNA from ancient hybridisation events.

    The paper briefly discusses the possibility of a cryptic bear, among other explanations. They say that since there’s no work been done on other samples of Himalayan bears, they have no way of telling if the sampled animals are unusual or not, or indeed if they represent a hybrid lineage or a lineage entirely descended from /U. maritimus/ (although given we know of existing hybrid populations, the former seems more parsimonious).

    It could be that the entire population is like this (either in hybrid or temperate-adapted-polar-bear form), or it could be a rare mDNA lineage within a more “normal” brown bear population, or it could be that there is a second, cryptic species. On gut feel, the second seems the likliest. They mention the hair colour – sandy and gingerish – as though it’s unusual, but I thought that was well within normal variation for the species. Even the unusual agression/fearlessness of one specimen could be explained by hunger or rabies.

    I can see why, though, people jumping enthusiastically on the last explanation only might bug you, though!

    I just added the word “explanation” to the above sentence, as the scope of “last” was ambiguous; I do not advocate anyone jumping on any live bear. Maybe fear of bears was hardwired into our Permian ancestors precisely to deter incidents like that. Although that also requires an early development of language and syntax. Hmmm.

    Link to this
  34. 34. Stripeycat 3:23 pm 07/2/2014

    Heteromeles #31. The date is c.2500, though, when the Sahara was a good deal drier than in the Naqada periods. It’s just about possible there is a surviving captive population since that time, but it’s a stretch.

    I just think the trade hypothesis is unlikely (not impossible) given that we have written Egyptian records (confirmed by archaeology) discussing trade with other, much closer, regions and getting to some of them is still a big deal. It seems so odd that both the historical and archaeological records would have a total blank as discussed in the previous post. The most plausible scenario I can come up with is that there’s undocumented trade south of the Sahara, and the duiker got into Punt or Nubia that way, and was then sent north as a gift, or bought as an incredibly expensive curiosity. Do we know if the other animals in the scene (an oryx was mentioned upthread) are Egyptian natives, or species from further south? If they’re imported eg East African oryx, that would add weight to the exotic import hypothesis.

    Still think misidentified drawing, or even the artist making stuff up, is more likely, though.

    Link to this
  35. 35. Heteromeles 3:53 pm 07/2/2014

    Hmm. The information I have came from a short letter in Science (20APRIL 2001 VOL 292, P. 440). It’s available online if you search on “pre dynastic Egypt duiker.” I’m going to be lazy and quote it in its entirety:

    “In his letter “Were there Duikers in ancient Egypt?” (2 Mar., p. 170 I), Nicolas Manlius describes a figure in a mural from an ancient Egyptian tomb that resembles the Jentink species of duiker (Cephalophrus jentinki). Duikers have not been listed among the fauna of ancient Egypt, but on the basis of several lines of evidence, Manlius suggests there might have been an isolated duiker population that persisted in ancient Egypt north of other duiker populations and that served as the source for the mural figure.

    “While preparing my dissertation The Funerary Sacrifice of Animals During the Predynastic Period (I), I came across the following information. Although most animal burials (not to mention interment of disarticulated bones from food offerings) of the predynastic period [-3200 to 3050 B.C. (2)] were rarely identified as to species, in a few instances attempts were made to do so. Brunton reported the skull and leg bone of a duiker as a food offering in a predynastic grave at Matmar (in the Badari region) dated to the Naqada I11 period (3).

    Giza Archives Project, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue. Boston, MA 02115, USA. E-26 mail:

    References and Notes
    1. D.V. Flores, thesis. Univ. of Toronto (1999).
    2. Dates for the cultural phases of the predynastic period are a matter of debate. The dates given here are from B. Adams, Predynastic Egypt (Shire Publications. Buckinghamshire. U.K., 1988).
    3. C. Brunton. Matmar, British Museum Expeditions to
    Middle Egypt, 1929-7937 (Quaritch. London. 1948).
    p. 24 and p. 29. The grave described was an unregistered one in the 200 series.”

    That’s where I got the date of 3100 BCE, and why I was thinking about bones, rather than pictures. I’ll also note that the date on the grave is not set in stone, and the dig was done quite a while ago.

    Link to this
  36. 36. irenedelse 4:27 pm 07/2/2014


    “Do we know if the other animals in the scene (an oryx was mentioned upthread) are Egyptian natives, or species from further south? If they’re imported eg East African oryx, that would add weight to the exotic import hypothesis.”

    Manlius (2001) identifies in the painting a “scimitar-horned oryx”, recognized by its curved horns. So it would be the scimitar oryx or Sahara oryx (O. dammah), extinct today but known to ancient Egyptians as its range extended to the whole Sahara. There’s also an addax antelope in the painting (Addax nasomaculatus, recognizable by its curved horns and a white blaze across the muzzle). The addax is in another part of the painting by the way, shown tethered near a cow and a goat, so it was kept in captivity. The oryx and the purported Jentink’s duiker both are shown in a hunt scene in the upper part of the painting, meant to be the wilderness.

    Link to this
  37. 37. Stripeycat 5:32 pm 07/2/2014

    Heteromeles, thanks, especially for quoting the letter which I can’t access (Science paywalls, mutter).

    Irene #14 had already mentioned the bones, and said that Flores (2001) said the field report (from the 1930s) had misidentified several other species. So as well as the date, the specimen itself is shaky (although not disproven yet).

    Irene #35, so the species in the painting are Egyptian natives (or common domesticates). Does anyone know how fussy duikers are in captivity, anyway? That could have a bearing on transporting them long-distance.

    Jerzy (here and on ver 2) suggests a mis-identified goat (although Irene mentions a clearly identified goat in the lower section).

    Darren on ver 2 said:
    Manlius says that the animal’s head ‘strongly resembles that of a duiker’ and has short, simple horns not longer than the ears. He goes on to say that it has ‘a dark brown head and neck with a belly, mane, and top length of the tail that are slate grey’, and off-white ear insides, and white along the middle of the muzzle. While this colour scheme recalls that of Jentink’s duiker, the mention of a mane is suspicious, as is the lack of a collar and the white muzzle stripe. Therefore, the apparent presence of Egyptian duiker bones may well be nothing at all to do with this painting
    Since Manlius doesn’t illustrate the letter, we can’t check, but this doesn’t sound 100% sure.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Jerzy v. 3.0. 5:57 pm 07/2/2014

    “Does anyone know how fussy duikers are in captivity, anyway? ”

    Very fussy, that is why they are so rare in zoos. They are prone to panic and difficult to feed. You cannot d trade them by caravan and feed on hay.

    I did my own internet search and another explanation offered is that ‘jentink’s duiker’ is a calf of Addax.

    It is also interesting how Ancient Egyptians kept their herds of tame antelope of several species. Did they supplement them by catching wild individuals?

    Link to this
  39. 39. irenedelse 6:21 pm 07/2/2014

    “Jerzy (here and on ver 2) suggests a mis-identified goat (although Irene mentions a clearly identified goat in the lower section).”

    At least it’s an animal looking a lot like an adult goat with dark coloured head and shoulders. I don’t have an institutional access to the Science archives but a quick Googling led to a PDF of a B&W photocopy of the Manlius 2001 paper. It’s enough for the text but the reproduction of the mural painting is less easy to interpret without the colours.

    Link to this
  40. 40. Heteromeles 12:20 am 07/3/2014

    If you google “pre dynastic Egypt duiker” and see a link to “about duikers in Ancient Egypt – Worldtracker,” that pdf is the letter I quoted. Unfortunately, the link itself is a bunch of Google garbage, and I haven’t been able to cut and paste it so that it can be read here.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Dartian 2:15 am 07/3/2014

    I also feel the Russian racoon and American black bear probably have good stories to tell – how likely are escapees from captivity versus deliberate hoaxes?

    I have no explanation for the American black bear sample, but there are indeed raccoons in Russia. Procyon lotor was deliberately introduced to various parts of the former Soviet Union, and is nowadays fairly abundant in some parts of Russia and in some former Soviet Republics.

    Link to this
  42. 42. Jerzy v. 3.0. 6:39 am 07/3/2014

    About ‘polar bear genes’ from Himalayas – I suggest that it is easier to explain as contamination in the lab, switched samples, or simple prank.

    I recall ‘Pseudonovibos DNA’ which turned to be chamois contamination, and one of the first ‘mammoth DNA’ which turned to be Asian+African elephant contamination (there are of course many valid mammoth DNA studies now).

    There are papers on brown bear phylogeny, and they didn’t find polar bear admixture in the Himalayas (granted, there can be unsampled populations, different DNA regions tested etc).

    Link to this
  43. 43. Jerzy v. 3.0. 7:00 am 07/3/2014

    Big thanks for the link to the original ‘duiker’ painting! I must say I recall mentally another picture, of an animal running to the left. Mr Richard Hoath suggest a calf Addax here:
    And it is even closer match than my ‘goat’.

    Link to this
  44. 44. irenedelse 8:35 am 07/3/2014

    I just tried to Google “Jentink’s duiker + ancient Egypt” again and found a full colour PDF of the article “Were there duikers in Ancient Egypt” (Manlius, 2001). I think I was too hasty in my former comments! What I thought was a goat is the tame addax mentioned by Manlius: light brown coat, white blaze across the muzzle, long curved horns. It’s probably a young animal though, because the horns are only partly convoluted. It’s consistent with the hypothesis that ancient Egyptians replenishd their “game parks” with young wild caught animals.

    (The addax is at the bottom right of the painting, next to a cow and an other ungulate that is harder to identity because the painting is damage at the level of the head. But it has strange horns looking a bit like a deer’s. Or that meant to be spiral horns?)

    Also, thanks for the link to that Richard Hoath interview, Jerzy. After seeing the colour reproduction, and how much the “duiker” in the hunting scene looks like the young addax at the bottom of the painting, I tend to agree with him.

    Link to this
  45. 45. naishd 9:54 am 07/3/2014

    I’d forgotten that there had been some discussion of the Egyptian ‘duiker image’ at Tet Zoo ver 2, and now that I see it again (thanks, irene and others) I don’t think it looks much like a Jentink’s duiker at all. Over at ver 2, I said “While this colour scheme recalls that of Jentink’s duiker, the mention of a mane is suspicious, as is the lack of a collar and the white muzzle stripe. Therefore, the apparent presence of Egyptian duiker bones may well be nothing at all to do with this painting”, and I think I’ll stick with that. It does look like a young Addax.

    As goes polar bear DNA and the Himalayas (comment # 42): I really think it’s unlikely that Sykes et al. were fooled by contamination – they’ve gone to extraordinary measures on this project to ensure that nothing like this happens. Plus, finding Polar bear DNA in ‘brown bears’ is not unprecedented. For example…

    Cahill, J. A., Green, R. E., Fulton, T. L., Stiller, M., Jay, F. et al. 2013. Genomic evidence for island population conversion resolves conflicting theories of Polar bear evolution. PLoS Genetics 9(3): e1003345. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003345

    Edwards, C. J. E., Suchard, M. A., Lemey, P., Welch, J. J., Barnes, I., et al. 2011. Ancient hybridization and a recent Irish origin for the modern polar bear matriline. Current Biology 21, 1251–1258.

    Preuß, A., Gansloßer, U., Purschke, G. & Magiera, U. 2009. Bear-hybrids: behaviour and phenotype. Der Zoologische Garten78, 204–220.

    Link to this
  46. 46. Jerzy v. 3.0. 6:45 pm 07/3/2014

    I am sceptical about hybrids in Himalayas. Known wild polar bear hybrids come from subarctic places, and it is long distance to Himalayas. And Siberian and Central Asian brown bears are well known – it is popular game animal in Russia. About American black bear in Russia – ufff… I would think, most probable is that samples were switched before the lab. That i, this hair was not anything collected in the wild. But who knows.

    I think stories how people obtained these ‘yeti and bigfoot samples’ would be themselves cracking read. Maybe Vlad can help there.

    Link to this
  47. 47. naishd 6:59 pm 07/3/2014

    Cameron McCormick has reminded me of Galbreath et al. (2007), a study which showed that some Himalayan brown bears are closer in mtDNA to polar bears and Alaskan brown bears than they are to other brown bears.

    Galbreath, G. J., Groves, C. P. & Waits, L. P. 2007. Genetic resolution of composition and phylogenetic placement of the Isabelline bear. Ursus 18, 129-131.

    Jerzy — I suppose you haven’t seen the relevant TV documentary where Sykes goes round the world and collects the relevant samples. I’m pretty sure Prof. Sykes is working on a book that describes the whole adventure.

    Link to this
  48. 48. LeeB 1 8:33 pm 07/3/2014

    Given the finding of an ancestral Arctic Fox in the Tibetan region recently, and the previous discovery of the oldest Woolly Rhino ancestors in the same region perhaps the occurrence of Brown Bears close to the ancestry of Polar Bears in the mountains of Central Asia should not be that surprising.
    Cold adapted Brown Bears from the high mountains could have moved down into the lower areas of Northern Asia during the ice ages and eventually reached the Siberian coast where they could have evolved into Polar Bears; with Arctic Foxes evolving similarly in the same area.


    Link to this
  49. 49. naishd 8:44 pm 07/3/2014

    Hmm. I’ve been thinking about this ‘Tibetan Plateau is a cradle for Ice Age species’ hypothesis a lot – was thinking about it today because of the news about Denisovan DNA, actually. An interesting idea. However, I don’t think the DNA data supports it at the moment – polar bears seem to have their origins among bears that inhabited the Atlantic fringes of Europe (at least, in those phylogenies that find polar bears to be nested within U. arctos).

    Link to this
  50. 50. LeeB 1 8:58 pm 07/3/2014

    Yes but once on the Siberian coastline the bears could have spread west and east rapidly.
    And fossil bears are probably better known from the coastline of Western Europe than from that of Northern Siberia.
    Also the fossil Irish Bears could be early Polar Bears with introgression of DNA from male Brown Bears just as one of the papers you referenced suggested for the ABC bears.


    Link to this
  51. 51. Jerzy v. 3.0. 5:14 am 07/4/2014

    Thanks, stand corrected.

    I haven’t seen the documentary, hope it was interesting. I noticed the famous mountaneer Reinhold Meissner is acknowledged in the paper, presumably some samples come from his searches of yeti.

    Project for now: DNA study of sea serpent carcases. ;)

    Link to this
  52. 52. naishd 5:20 am 07/4/2014

    Messner and his ideas featured heavily in the documentary. As for sea serpents… well, can you guess what they’re doing next? :)

    Link to this
  53. 53. LeeB 1 9:20 pm 07/4/2014

    Darren, too many of the DNA based phylogenies of Brown and Polar bears don’t include central Asian or Himalayan brown bears.
    However a nice open access recent one is in Harington et. al. 2013 here:

    This includes ancient and modern DNA and has brown bears from the Gobi Desert, Pakistan and Iran as well as Tibet included.

    The resulting trees are interesting; firstly the Tibetan specimen is far separate from the Pakistani and Iranian and Gobi specimens.

    There is a clade of mainly southern European bears which also includes Scandinavian and Irish bears and one North African bear.

    There is another clade which has Gobi, Pakistan and Iranian bears as a sister group to some Irish bears; these are then a sister group to a clade consisting of Irish bears, bears from the ABC islands, a bear from Alaska, and all the Polar bears.

    As the Irish bears appear in two clades there could be two populations in Ireland or there has been hybridisation in Ireland between polar bears and bears from the southern European clade.
    The ABC bears appearing in this clade might support the latter.
    In any case the central Asian bears (but not the Tibetan Plateau ones)are on the branch leading to the Polar Bears.

    This appears to agree with the scenario of high altitude Central Asian bears spreading north to the Siberian Arctic coast and evolving into polar bears.


    Link to this
  54. 54. naishd 9:28 pm 07/4/2014

    Interesting; thanks indeed, LeeB.

    Link to this
  55. 55. Morsels For The Mind – 04/07/2014 › Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast 3:51 pm 07/5/2014

    [...] Dehorning & weaning makes dairy cows pessimistic. Wow. Amazing story, by Mary Bates.Holy cow! Remarkable little bovids, the duikers. Darren Naish provides his usual comprehensive look at some cool zoology.The fifth element? [...]

    Link to this
  56. 56. SeanMcCabe 11:10 pm 07/12/2014

    Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to explain as brown bears that lived up north, and had the bloodline spread south before going extinct in the north, as opposed to thinking Polar Bears are directly linked to the Himalayas?

    Link to this
  57. 57. LeeB 1 6:56 pm 07/13/2014

    Perhaps, or the original population in central Asia and Siberia to the north was widespread and was the one that gave rise to the polar bear and then later other brown bear lineages moved into the area displacing the original population which only survived in the central Asian mountains and the Himalayas.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American


Get All-Access Digital + Print >


Email this Article