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The Contemporary Mammal Fauna of Africa

R. C. Bigalke
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Vol. 43, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), pp. 265-300
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2817824
Page Count: 36
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The Contemporary Mammal Fauna of Africa
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Abstract

Africa and the Oriental Region are probably the areas from which mammals radiated into the rest of the world. Both regions have rich and diverse mammalian faunas. That of Africa, composed purely of placentals, is most closely related to the Oriental fauna and has very little in common with the faunas of the other southern continents. About one quarter of the families are endemic. Approximate numbers of species and superspecies are given for each family. Africa has about one-quarter of the mammal species of the world; rodents, bats, insectivores, artiodactyls, carnivores and primates, in that order, are the largest groups. Endemism at the generic level is high except in the bats. The main features of speciation, radiation, ecology and geographical distribution are discussed for each order. Outstandig features are the radiation of insectivores with the evolution of three endemic families, (the aquatic otter shrews, subterranean golden moles and bipedal elephant shrews); the great diversity of rodents, with endemic families resembling "flying" squirrels (anomalurids), moles (bathyergids), hyraxes (ctenodactylids), cavies (thrynomyds) and Kangaroos (pedetes); extensive speciation in the Viverridae, and unparalleled radiation in the Bovidae to fill all available herbivorous niches. Regional faunas of the main biotic zones (Lowland Forest; Southern and Northern Savanna; Southe West, Somali and Sudanese Arid; and the Abyssinian Highlands) are described. The basic dichotomy is between forest and non-forest froms. A consideration of centers of endemism, mainly in the lowland forest and arid zones, leads to the conclusion that they were isolated as a result of fluctuations in climate and the resulting displacement of vegetation zones during the Quarternary. The faunas of Madagascar and of the Comor, Seychelle and Mascarene Islands are described. Madagascar has a peculiar, ancient, typically unbalanced, island fauan with African affinities. The other islands have small faunas, composed only of bats in the case of the farthest ones.

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