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    Pleistocene Fauna in Algeria


    Land of the Homo Mauritanicus

    The site of Tighennif (also called Ternifine ) in Northern Algeria, well known for its Homo mauritanicus remains, and probably dating to the late Calabrian, yielded a large assemblage of terrestrial carnivores. Some are identical or probably identical with extant species: Crocuta crocuta and Hyaena hyaena (Hyaenidae), Felis silvestris(Felidae), Mellivora capensis and Poecilictis cf. libyca (Mustelidae), and Vulpes cf. rueppelli (Canidae). 

    Saber-toothed Cat and Other Carnivores 

    In addition, among felids there is an unidentified leopard-like form; a smaller, more common species assigned to Lynx sp. (a genus quite rare in Africa) but which is certainly different from modern forms, an Homotherium that seems to be the last occurrence of the machairodonts in Africa, and a Panthera aff. leo, which is unfortunately too poorly known to be named. Rare bears do not display all derived features of later North African U.bibersoni. Among canids, the Nyctereutes-like jackal Lupulella mohibiis an endemic North African form known until the late middle Pleistocene, and the hunting dog Lycaon magnusis also clearly distinct from the modern species. A single new species is described, Enhydrictis hoffstetteri, a large, otter-like member of the Mustelidae, of a genus that was previously unknown from Africa, and certainly testifies to North-South dispersal across the Mediterranean at some time during the early Pleistocene.

    The Mammals

    Besides the carnivores, the updated faunal list of mammals found includes: Homo cf. rhodesiensis, Theropithecusoswaldi, Loxodonta atlantica, Ceratotherium mauritanicum, Equus mauritanicus, Hippopotamus sirensis, Metridiochoerus compactus, Camelus thomasi, Giraffidae indet. cf. Mitilanotherium sp., Tragelaphus algericus, “Bos” bubaloides, Kobussp., Oryx cf. gazella, Hippotragus cf. gigas, Connochaetes taurinusprognu, Parmularius ambiguus, Gazella dracula, Gazella cf. atlantica, Gazella sp., Lepus sp., Ellobius africanus, Paraethomys tighenifae, Arvicanthis arambourgi, Praomys eghrisae, Gerbillus major, Gerbillus cingulatus, Mascaramys medius, and Meriones maximus, Caprini indet.


    The site of Tighennif , was discovered in 1872. Pomel (1878) gave the first report on fossil finds; he also briefly described as Hyaena spelaeathe first fossil carnivore from this site, and reported a zorilla (striped polecat) skull, while correctly noting that it was probably not fossil. Many more fossils were discovered during the last part of the 19th century. The great antiquity of the site was definitely established by the discovery by Pallary in 1928 of a canine of the saber-tooth cat Homotherium. Arambourg led new excavations in 1931, but the largest ones were conducted by C. Arambourg and R. Hoffstetter from 1954 to1956. Thousands of fossils were collected, together with numerous Acheulean artefacts and several human remains. 

    Although these authors reported about their excavations and described the hominin remains, they left aside the other mammalian remains.

    Two short field campaigns were conducted by a team led by J.-J.Jaeger et J.-J.Hublinin 1982-83; they resulted in an updated faunal list and a refinement of the stratigraphy and sedimentary context. The bulk of the sediments consists of loose eolian sands, often rubefied, which overlie grey and varicoloured clays. All of these are fossiliferous; Arambourg did not record the origin of the fossils, but it can sometimes be deduced from their facies.

    Tighennif is thought to be older than the middle Pleistocene.

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    Item Reviewed: Pleistocene Fauna in Algeria Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Algeria Gate
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