The bones of an extinct dwarf species of buffalo were recently unearthed on the Philippine island of Cebu.
From LiveScience.com comes this report of a new discovery by CMNH VP Research Associate, Dr. Darin Croft:
Bubalus cebuensis, the miniature buffalo stood at just more than two feet, three times smaller than today’s domestic buffalo, and weighed a mere 350 pounds. It probably lived during the Pleistocene (Ice Age) or Holocene Epochs, between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago.
"Natural selection can produce dramatic body-size changes. On islands where there is limited food and a small population, large mammals often evolve to much smaller size," said lead researcher Darin Croft of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
Fossils are rare in the tropical environments of the Philippines, a region lacking open rocky patches where fossils are often buried and preserved, and this is the first fossil mammal of any age reported from Cebu Island. The fossil remains were found 50 years ago in a phosphate mine by engineer Michael Armas. Nearly four decades later, he showed them to physician Hamilcar Intengan, who recognized their importance and brought them to The Field Museum for study in 1995.
The partial skeleton included two teeth, two vertebrae, two upper arm bones, a foot bone and two hoof bones. The species had relatively large teeth, which is typical of island dwarfs, but also relatively big feet, which are generally reduced along with other body features in dwarfing.
The finding supports the idea that the earliest water buffalo were large and first evolved in Southeast Asia. The animals likely traveled from the mainland to the Philippine islands when sea levels dropped roughly 400 feet during the peak of the “Ice Age” about 20,000 years ago.