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Ecomorphology and ecology of the grassland specialist, Rusingoryx atopocranion (Artiodactyla: Bovidae), from the late Pleistocene of western Kenya.

Kovarovic, K. and Faith, J.T. and Jenkins, K.E. and Tryon, C.A. and Peppe, D.J. (2021) 'Ecomorphology and ecology of the grassland specialist, Rusingoryx atopocranion (Artiodactyla: Bovidae), from the late Pleistocene of western Kenya.', Quaternary research., 101 . pp. 187-204.


Rusingoryx atopocranion is an extinct alcelaphin bovid from the late Pleistocene of Kenya, known for its distinctive hollow nasal crest. A bonebed of R. atopocranion from the Lake Victoria Basin provides a unique opportunity to examine the nearly complete postcranial ecomorphology of an extinct species, and yields data that are important to studying paleoenvironments and human-environment interaction. With a comparative sample of extant African bovids, we used discriminant function analyses to develop statistical ecomorphological models for 18 skeletal elements and element portions. Forelimb and hindlimb element models overwhelmingly predict that R. atopocranion was an open-adapted taxon. However, the phalanges of Rusingoryx are remarkably short relative to their breadth, a morphology outside the range of extant African bovids, which we interpret as an extreme open-habitat adaptation. It follows that even recently extinct fossil bovids can differ in important morphological ways relative to their extant counterparts, particularly if they have novel adaptations for past environments. This unusual phalanx morphology (in combination with other skeletal indications), mesowear, and dental enamel stable isotopes, demonstrate that Rusingoryx was a grassland specialist. Together, these data are consistent with independent geological and paleontological evidence for increased aridity and expanded grassland habitats across the Lake Victoria Basin.

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Publisher statement:This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2021
Date accepted:01 October 2020
Date deposited:08 December 2020
Date of first online publication:19 January 2021
Date first made open access:03 June 2021

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