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Biometrical trends in the Tetraconodontinae, a subfamily of pigs

  • J. van der Made (a1)

The Tetraconodontinae Lydekker, 1876 are a subfamily of pigs (Suidae) with a great variety of dental adaptations, such as greatly enlarged or reduced premolars, enlarged posterior molars, hypsodonty, enlarged incisors etc. The essence of most of these adaptations can be described very well by simple biometry. Size increase of the last molars has proved to be of importance in African biostratigraphy. However, it appears that members of different lineages have been mixed up.

Tendencies in relative premolar size indicate that the 21 species known can be grouped in three tribes: (1) the Tetraconodontini, with very large or even extremely enlarged premolars and, in one of the lineages, a tendency to enlarge the posterior molars; (2) the Nyanzachoerini new tribe, characterised by moderately enlarged or even reduced premolars and with a tendency to increase the length of the posterior molars by the addition of distal cusps; and (3) the Parachleuastochoerini new tribe, with relatively long but narrower premolars. Both Nyanzachoerini and Tetraconodontini include species that were placed previously in Conohyus and Nyanzachoerus.

A very long gradually evolving lineage in the Nyanzachoerini, spanning 13 Ma, is documented. In the last 5 Ma of this lineage, M3 length increased at such a rate that a (sub)species can be recognised about every 0·7 Ma. Slightly lesser rates of evolution are found in some other lineages, but still others experienced apparently long periods of stasis or very slow evolution. In a single case there is a period of stasis combined with a sudden evolutionary jump as in the punctuated equilibria model.

In the cases of intercontinental dispersal events combined with cladogenesis, where the ancestor in the continent of origin could be identified, the cause of cladogenesis seems to have been geographical isolation. Two tetraconodont lineages were restricted to Eurasia for about 5 Ma. During the Late Miocene, members of these lineages dispersed repeatedly to Africa. The Vallesian is a period of profound climatic changes which are reflected in changes in biogeography of many taxa. It is assumed that these and later climatic changes enabled the dispersal of Tetraconodontinae to Africa.

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