The first giraffes originating from Sardinia
The ancestors of the first giraffes used to live in Sardinia, according to a study conducted on the fossil remains found in Northern Sardinia of an endemic giraffomorph animal that lived in Lower Miocene on the island and died out without leaving successors.
The study, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, conducted by a team of researchers including Gian Luigi Pillola and Daniel Zoboli from the University of Cagliari, and Bastien Mennecart and Loïc Costeur, of the Museums of Natural History of Basel and Wien, has analyzed the remains of Sardomeryx oschiriensis found in lacustrine deposits dating back to Lower Miocene, between 18 and 19 million years ago.
The study led to the identification of a continental ancestor shared by the Sardinian insular species: a ruminant of the Bedenomeryx genre that lived in the Oligocene in Southern France and Spain, which populated the Sardinian-Corsican area before it detached from the European coasts.
“The study of new fossil remains, found near the small town of Laerru, has allowed not only to reinterpret the phylogenetic position of this insular species, by classifying Sardomeryx as a basal member of the Palaeomerycoidea group, but also to take stock of the most ancient phases in the evolutionary history of giraffomorphs”, said paleontologist Daniel Zoboli.
However, they were very different from how we could imagine them: “They probably were as big as a sheep or a small deer, without horns. However, we know for sure that the males had robust upper canines, just like some current and fossil ruminants. Therefore, we should not think about an animal with the long neck that characterizes current giraffes”, said Zoboli.