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The Fossil Mammal Fauna of Africa

H. B. S. Cooke
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Vol. 43, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), pp. 234-264
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2817823
Page Count: 31
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The Fossil Mammal Fauna of Africa
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Abstract

The African continent has long been regarded as a "refuge" for the survival of archaic forms of life, but in recent years evidence has been accumulating which serves to emphasize the essentially indigenous nature of the living and extinct mammalian faunas. This paper discusses the major fossil localities and their faunas against a background of new paleogeographic studies. The latter show that through most of geological time Arabia has been basically part of the African continent; the Red Sea rift developed as a terrestrial trough in the Oligocene, was invaded from the Mediterranean in the Miocene, and connected through to the Indian Ocean in the Pliocene. The pre-Mediterranean Tethys Sea cut Arabo-Africa off from Eurasia during much of the Mesozoic and Tertiary. Temporary land of island connections occurred during the Paleocene elevation of the Arabo-African block, during the late Oligocene orogenesis in the Atlas and the Alps, and again at the end of the Miocene. At these times there was opportunity for limited faunal interchange between Arabo-Africa and Eurasia. From a Paleocene ferungulate stock, already possessing early anthracotheres and hyaenodonts, the proboscideans, hyracoids, and sirenians developed as new elements in Africa. Insectivores and primates must also have been part of this early fauna. In the late Oligocene there was an export of African stocks to Eurasia in exchange for importation of some perissodactyls, fissiped carnivores, and perhaps basic suid, tragulid, and palaeo-merycid-bovid elements. Lesser interchanges took place at the end of the Miocene, contributing African forms to Eurasia and admitting hipparionids to Africa. During the Pliocene great diversification took place among the African Bovidae and Siodae in particular, but the Ethiopian region was effectively isolated from Eurasia until the end of the period. However, Arabia became firmly linked to Asia and probably furnished much African material to that continent. An attempt is made to show by means of diagrams the apparent duration of African evolution for each mammalian family and to suggest the time and geographic origin or destination of imports and exports. The role Africa as an important center of evolution and source for diffusion into the Palearctic region is apparent.

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