The Journey of the Hippo to Africa

The Journey of the Hippo to Africa : An ancient hippo conundrum has finally been resolved by a group of French and Kenyan academics. They have disclosed that these intriguing extinct animals are unrelated to suids (peccaries and pigs). Previously, scientists believed that the hippo evolved from a different, extinct group.

They claim that this finding fills in a hole in the fossil record. It formally divides these enormous creatures from the cetaceans, who are their nearest living relatives, which include dolphins, whales, and porpoises.

All of this is because to the discovery of multiple teeth and a half-jaw at Lokone in the Kenyan Lake Turkana basin. The scientific community now believes that this was a new fossil species as a result of the amazing discovery. It is a member of a very recent genus that dates from roughly 28 million years ago.

It was given the name Epirigenys lokonensis. The name is a combination of two Turkana names: Lokone, the location of the fossil find, and “Epiri,” which implies hippos.

Due to their peculiar shape, palaeontologists have long assumed that these semi-aquatic animals are connected to the Suidae family. DNA comparisons carried out in the 1990s and 2000s showed that cetaceans were actually the closest living cousins of hippos.

The majority of paleontological explanations appeared to be at odds with this discovery. The situation was not improved by the further absence of fossil evidence. Therefore, the hippo’s ancestry’s mystery has persisted to this day.

The patterns of the grooves in the fossilised tooth (E. lokonensis) resemble those of anthracotheres. Whales and hippos’ extinct relatives are called Anthracotheriidae. They were in what is now South East Asia around 40 million years ago.

However, the teeth of E. lokonensis have blunter tips and thicker enamel. Premolar morphology also more closely resembles that of cousins of hippos that roamed Uganda around 21 million years ago.

The team’s investigation into how hippos entered Africa is progressing thanks to this new data. Africa was originally a solitary continent, having been split off from neighboring landmasses between around 110 million and 18 million years ago.

The Journey of the Hippo to Africa

Small groups of monkeys and anthracotheres travelled from Asia to Africa approximately 35 million years ago. Later, between 20 and 18 million years ago, when a land bridge joined Asia and Africa, many species of mammals migrated once more.

It is only possible that hippos are descended from the first wave of anthracotheres, the earliest large terrestrial mammals to invade Africa, given the presence of E. lokonensis in Africa 28 million years ago.

These anthracotheres may have adopted their semi-aquatic lifestyle at a young age since they were required to be able to swim in order to get to Africa. Scientists may be able to piece together the common ancestor of hippos and their nearest extant relatives if they can determine when this ability evolved in anthracotheres.

Now that you are aware of the hippo’s journey to Africa, visit Lake Naivasha to view them on a Kenya safari you will not get disappointed.

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