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Bizarre bovid identified in Vietnam.

The montane rainforest of northern Vietnam has disclosed an ancient inhabitant, an animal that resembles a mix between a primitive ox and an antelope. Although hunters trap the creature, biologists only recently took stock of it, classifying it as Pseudoryx, a new genus in the bovid family of cattle, goats, and antelopes. Scientists first stumbled across a Pseudoryx skull in the hut of a hunter. Local people use the skulls as kitchen utensils, says Peter Arctander, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. He and his co-workers from Vietnam and Hong Kong describe the find in the June 3 NATURE.

The animal's habitat, in the Du Quang nature reserve, is pristine and made largely inaccessible by rocky cliffs and dense foliage. Located just north of an old military supply route, the forest barely escaped defoliation during the Vietnam war. It has remained ecologically stable for tens of millions of years, enabling it to harbor relict species, says Arctander.

His genetic studies indicate that Pseudoryx evolved around 10 million years ago. Arctander suspects that further genetic analysis will help explain the early speciation of bovids. "My guess is that this is a very primitive cow, close to some basic splits in this group of animals;' he says.

Arctander also compared a specific segment of mitochondrial DNA from 11 Pseudoryx and found no genetic variation among the samples. This genetic uniformity may mean that as few as 200 of the animals survive today, he says.

Since the discovery, the Vietnamese government has expanded the reserve from 16,000 to 60,000 hectares. Arctander says he has heard rumors of other new species in the area, including a tortoise, two types of pheasant, and another bovid.
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Title Annotation:Pseudoryx looks like a mix between a primitive ox and an antelope
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 19, 1993
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