, 94:575 | Cite as

The oldest African fox (Vulpes riffautae n. sp., Canidae, Carnivora) recovered in late Miocene deposits of the Djurab desert, Chad

  • Louis de Bonis
  • Stéphane Peigné
  • Andossa Likius
  • Hassane Taïsso Mackaye
  • Patrick Vignaud
  • Michel Brunet
Original Paper


We report on the oldest fox (Canidae) ever found in Africa. It is dated to 7 Ma based on the degree of evolution of the whole fauna. It belongs to a new species. Its overall size and some morphological characteristics distinguish the Chadian specimen from all the other foxes. The presence of Vulpes and of the genus Eucyon in slightly younger African locality, as well as in southwestern Europe in the late Miocene, may indicate that canids migrated in Europe from Africa through a trans-Mediterranean route.


Mammalia Carnivora Canidae Africa Late Miocene 



Many thanks are due to the authorities from Chad and France for supporting the field expeditions in the Djurab. This work was supported by a grant from the RHOI/NSF program. For access to comparative material, we thank D. Robineau and Alexis Martin, Museum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris. Many thanks are also due to Sabine Riffaut who skillfully prepared the drawings and Xiaoming Wang (Natural History Museum, Los Angeles) for critics on an earlier draft of the paper. We are especially grateful to Lars Werdelin (Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm) for his insightful comments and for improving the language. We also thank two anonymous referees for their comments and all the MPFT members who helped to collect the fossils.


  1. Berta A (1987) Origin, diversification, and zoogeography of the South American Canidae. Fieldiana Geol 39:455–471Google Scholar
  2. de Bonis L, Peigné S, Likius A, Mackaye H T, Vignaud P, Brunet M (2005) Hyaenictitherium minimum, a new ictithere (Mammalia, Carnivora, Hyaenidae) from the Late Miocene of Toros-Menalla, Chad. Comptes Rendus Palevol 4:671–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowdich TE (1821) An analysis of the natural classification of Mammalia for the use of students and travellers. J. Smith, Paris, pp 1–115Google Scholar
  4. Brunet M, Guy F, Pilbeam D, Mackaye H T, Likius A, Ahounta D, Beauvilain A, Blondel C, Bocherens H, Boisserie J R, Bonis L de, Coppens Y, Dejax J, Denys C, Duringer P, Eisenmann V, Fanone G, Fronty P, Geraads D, Lehmann T, Lihoreau F, Louchart A, Mahamat A, Merceron G, Mouchelin G, Otero O, Campomanes PP, De Leon MP, Rage JC, Sapanet M, Schuster M, Sudre J, Tassy P, Valentin X, Vignaud P, Viriot L, Zazzo A, Zollikofer C (2002) A new hominid from the Upper Miocene of Chad, Central Africa. Nature 418:145–151PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brunet M, Guy F, Lieberman DE, Likius A, Mackaye HT, Ponce de León MS, Zollikofer CPE, Vignaud P (2005) New material of the earliest hominid from the Upper Miocene of Chad. Nature 434:752–755PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dayan M, Tchernov E, Yom-Tov Y, Simberloff D (1989) Ecological character displacement in Saharo-Arabian Vulpes: outfoxing Bergmann’s rule. Oikos 55:263–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dayan M, Simberloff D, Tchernov E, Yom-Tov Y (1992) Canine carnassials: character displacement in the wolves, jackals, and foxes of Israel. Biol J Linn Soc 45:315–331Google Scholar
  8. Deino AL, Tauxe L, Monaghan M, Hill A (2002) 40Ar/39Ar geochronology and paleomagnetic stratigraphy of the Lukeino and lower Chemeron Formations at Tabarin and Kapcheberek, Tugen Hills, Kenya. J Hum Evol 42:117–140PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fischer von Waldheim G (1817) Adversaria Zoologica. Mem Soc Imp Nat Mosc 5:368–428Google Scholar
  10. Frisch J L (1775) Das Natur-System der vierfüßigen Thiere in Tabellen, darinnen alle Ordnungen, Geschlechte und Arten, nicht nur mit bestimmenden Benennungen, sondern beygesetzten unterscheidenden Kennzeichen angezeigt werden zum Nutzen der erwachsenen Schuljugend. Günther, Glogau, pp [1–6], 1–30, [1–4]Google Scholar
  11. Geffen E (1994) Vulpes cana. Mamm Species 462:1–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Geffen E, Hefner R, Wright P (2004) Blanford’s fox (Vulpes cana). In: Sillero-Zubiri C, Hoffmann M, Macdonald DW (eds) Canids: foxes, wolves, jackals and dogs. Status survey and conservation: action plan. IUCN, Gland Switzerland, pp 194–198Google Scholar
  13. Ginsburg L (1999) Order Carnivora. In: Rössner GE, Heissig K (eds) The Miocene land mammals of Europe. Verlag Dr Friedlich Pfeil, Munich, pp 109–148Google Scholar
  14. Hemprich FG, Ehrenberg CG (1828–1834) Symbolae physicae, seu icones et descriptiones corporum naturalium novorum aut minus cognitorum quae ex itineribus per Libyam,Aegyptium, Nubiam, Dongalam, Syriam, Arabiam et Habessiniam, pars zoologica II, anima, pp. Plates. Officina Academica, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  15. Hendey QB (1974) The late Cenozoic Carnivora of the south-western Cape Province. Ann S Afr Mus 63:1–369Google Scholar
  16. Kormos T (1932) Die Fuchse des ungarischen Oberpliozän. Folia zoologica et hydrobiologica 4(2):167–188Google Scholar
  17. Koufos GD (1993) Late Pliocene carnivores from western Macedonia (Greece). Paläontol Z 67:357–376Google Scholar
  18. Kurtén B, Crusafont M (1977) Villafranchian carnivores (Mammalia) from La Puebla de Valverde (Teruel, Spain). Commentat Biol 85:1–139Google Scholar
  19. Leidy J (1869) The extinct mammalian fauna of Dakota and Nebraska, including an account of some allied forms from other localities, together with a synopsis of the mammalian remains of North America. Journ Acad Nat Sci Phila 7:1–472Google Scholar
  20. Major F (1875) Considerazioni sulla fauna dei mammiferi plioceni e post plioceni della Toscana. Atti Soc Toscana Sci Nat Mem I 7–40:223–245Google Scholar
  21. Martin R (1973) Trois nouvelles espèces de Caninae (Canidae, Carnivora) des gisements plio-villafranchiens d’Europe. Notes et Mémoires. Doc Lab Geol Fac Sci Lyon 57:87–95Google Scholar
  22. McDougall I, Feibel CS (1999) Numerical age control for the Miocene-Pliocene succession at Lothagam, a hominoid-bearing sequence in the northern Kenya Rift. J Geol Soc 156:731–745Google Scholar
  23. Morales J, Nieto M, Khöler M, Moyà-Solà S (1999) Large mammals from the Vallesian of Spain. In: Agusti J., Rook L., Andrews P (eds) Hominoid evolution and climatic change in Europe, vol. 1. The evolution of Neogene terrestrial ecosystems in Europe. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 113–126Google Scholar
  24. Morales J, Soria D, Pickford D (2005) Carnivores from the late Miocene and basal Pliocene of the Tugen Hills, Kenya. Rev Soc Geol Esp 18:39–61Google Scholar
  25. Munthe K (1998) Canidae. In: Janis CM, Scott K, Jacobs LL (eds) Evolution of tertiary mammals of North America. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 124–143Google Scholar
  26. Odinsov IA (1967) New type of Pliocene beast Vulpes odessana from karst caves in Odessa. Paleontologiceskij sbornik 4(1):130–137Google Scholar
  27. Opdyke ND (1990) Magnetic stratigraphy of Cenozoic terrestrial sediments and mammalian dispersal. J Geol 98:621–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Peigné S, Bonis L de, Likius A, Mackaye H T, Vignaud P, Brunet M (2005a) A new machairodontine (Carnivora, Felidae) from the Late Miocene hominid locality of TM 266, Toros-Menalla, Chad. Comptes Rendus Palevol 4:243–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Peigné S, Bonis L de, Likius A, Makaye H T, Vignaud P, Brunet M (2005b) The oldest modern mongoose (Carnivora, Herpestidae) from Africa: Galerella sanguinea from the late Miocene hominid-bearing locality TM 266, Toros-Menalla, Chad. Naturwissenschaften 92:287–292PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pons Moya J, Crusafont Pairo M (1978a) Sobre la identidad del «Canis» adoxus Martin (1973) y su implicación en el conocimiento del genero Vulpes. Acta Geol Hisp 13:129–132Google Scholar
  31. Pons Moya J, Crusafont Pairo M (1978b) El Canis cipio Crusafont (1950), comparación con los canidos del Plioceno y Pleistoceno europeo. Acta Geol Hisp 13:133–136Google Scholar
  32. Poplin F (1972) Contribution à la morphologie et à la biométrie d’Alopex lagopus (Linné) et de Vulpes vulpes (Linné). Les renards d’Arcy-sur-Cure. Thesis, Univ Paris-6, pp 1–149Google Scholar
  33. Qiu Z, Tedford RH (1990) A Pliocene species of Vulpes from Yushe, Shanxi. Vertebr Palasiatica 28:245–258Google Scholar
  34. Savage D (1941) Two new middle Pliocene carnivores from Oklahoma with notes on the Optima fauna. Am Midl Nat 2:692–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schuster M, Duringer P, Ghienne JF, Vignaud P, Makaye HT, Likius A, Brunet M (2006) The age of the Sahara desert. Science 311:821PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stevens MS, Stevens JB (2003) Carnivora (Mammalia, Felidae, Canidae, and Mustelidae) from the earliest Hemphillian screw bean local fauna, Big Bend National Park, Brewster County, Texas. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 279:177–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tedford RH, Taylor BE, Wang X (1995) Phylogeny of the Caninae (Carnivora: Canidae): the living taxa. Am Mus Novit 3146:1–37Google Scholar
  38. van der Made J, Morales J, Montoya P (2006) Late Miocene turnover in the Spanish mammal record in relation to palaeoclimate and the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 238:228–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vignaud P, Duringer P, Mackaye HT, Likius A, Blondel C, Boisserie JR, de Bonis L, Eisenmann V, Etienne ME, Geraads D, Guy F, Lehmann T, Lihoreau F, López-Martínez N, Mourer-Chauviré C, Otero O, Rage JC, Schuster M, Viriot L, Zazzo A, Brunet M (2002) Geology and paleontology of the Upper Miocene Toros-Ménalla hominid locality, Chad. Nature 418:152–155PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wang X, Tedford RH, Van Valkenburgh B, Wayne RK (2004) Ancestry: evolutionary history, molecular systematics, and evolutionary ecology of Canidae. In: Macdonald DW, Sillero-Zubiri C (eds) The biology and conservation of wild canids. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 39–54Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis de Bonis
    • 1
  • Stéphane Peigné
    • 1
  • Andossa Likius
    • 2
  • Hassane Taïsso Mackaye
    • 2
  • Patrick Vignaud
    • 1
  • Michel Brunet
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Géobiologie, Biochronologie et Paléontologie humaine, UMR 6046 CNRSUniversité de PoitiersPoitiers cedexFrance
  2. 2.Université de N’DjamenaN’DjamenaChad

Personalised recommendations