Postcranial evidence for the evolution of the Black Wildebeest, Connochaetes gnou: an exploratory study

Brink, James S
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Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research
Black wildebeest fossils from the interior of South Africa and the Cape coastal zone are compared to modern specimens in order to trace the pattern of morphological change and the distribution of the species through time. Measurements taken on selected postcranial skeletal elements, i.e. the axis and metapodials, suggest that the evolution of the black wildebeest was marked by a general reduction in body size. It appears that the evolution of Connochaetes gnou from a blue wildebeest-like (C. taurinus) ancestor is best documented in areas to the south of the Vaal River. Although the geographic range of the two temporal subspecies of C. gnou (C. gnou laticornutus and C. gnou antiquus) included the Cape ecozone, the reduction in body size appears to have beeen accelerated in the Cape coastal zone where in the Last Glacial sensu lato there was a regionally distinct population. This population, of smaller body size than extant populations, became extinct at the end of the Last Glacial with the onset of higher sea levels.
Connochaetes gnou, fossil history, biogeography