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Robusticity of Bovidae skeletal elements from southern Africa and their potential in species identification

  • Journal Title: Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History
  • Volume: Volume 1
  • Issue: 
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Pages: 41  - 52
  • Authors:  E. Swanepoel;  M. Steyn;
  • ISSN: 22204563
  • Abstract:  Faunal analysis is crucial in the investigation of the complexity of caves and archaeological sites. Osteological measurements are often used for human remains as a means of identification, and can also be used for animal bones. Sometimes measurements constitute the only method of accurate identification and can be used to distinguish between similar species.The aim of this study was to assess measurements reflecting robusticity in bovids, in order to establish whether this could be used for identification of unknown animal bones, or at least indicate bovid size class. In total, 846 femora, tibiae, and metatarsals of bovids in the various size classes classified as proposed by Brain (1974) were measured.The maximum long bone length and smallest shaft circumference of modern southern African specimens were used. In order to assess the robusticity of the bones, a robusticity index was calculated for each bone.The calculated indices for the three hind limb bones showed that there is a large degree of overlap between most of the species on all three bones.There are, however, a few species that could be identified purely on their index values if the Bovid size class were known. Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) showed almost no overlap with any other species and was the most robust in all three long bones. Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekeii) femur and tibia were the least robust, whereas springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) had the most gracile metatarsal. Bov classes I and II were overall less robust than Bov classes III and IV in all three bones. With further studies and a larger specimen database, specific values may prove to be important in identifying the different Bovid size classes and possibly give some insight into lifestyle adaptations in mammals.
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