Hippopotamus madagascariensis (dwarf hippopotamus)

Hippopotamus madagascariensis is an extinct species of dwarf hippopotamus from the African island of Madagascar. Hippopotamus madagascariensis one of three species of hippopotamus that have been discovered on the island from semi-fossilised remains that all date within the last 10,000 years from the Holocene age.

Dwarf hippopotamuses were recorded as living on Madagascar by early European explorers in the sixteen hundreds. No hippopotamuses are living on Madagascar today.

Species detail

The first detailed description of a figured skull and lower jaw of Hippopotamus madagascariensis was that of Guldberg (1883) in Norwegian. The material was collected in the central highlands of Madagascar and donated to the Zoological Museum in Oslo.

For many years since its original description this dwarf hippopotamus was considered to be synonymous with another species of dwarf hippo Hippopotamus lemerlei (described even earlier by Grandidier in 1868). It was not until 1989 that a Swedish researcher Solweig Stuenes correctly recognised that there were two distinct species of dwarf hippopotamus on Madagascar and not only that these dwarf hippos were restricted to different geographic regions on the island.

  • H. madagascariensis (NHM M7093): superorbital margin thin above eye socket.
    Taxonomy

    Read about the size, weight and other features of Hippopotamus madagascariensis.

  • Map of Madagascar indicating distribution of extinct hippopotamus species.
    Evolution

    It is likely that the ancestors of Hippopotamus madagascariensis swam the Mozambique channel to reach Madagascar, from which Hippopotamus madagascariensis evolved based on its island surroundings. Find out more about the evolution of the dwarf hippopotamuses of Madagascar.

  • River running through the central highlands of Madagascar.
    Distribution

    Learn about the three extinct species of hippopotamus that have been discovered in Madagascar and view a distribution map of these species.

  • Hippopotamus madagascariensis skull
    References

    Get reference material for Hippopotamus madagascariensis.

Images

Hippopotamus madagascariensis

Hippopotamus madagascariensis (NHM M7093): superorbital margin thin above eye socket.

Hippopotamus madagascariensis

A nearly 3000 year old dwarf Hippopotamus madagascariensis (Guldberg, 1883) skull from Antsirabé in the central highlands of Madagascar. This specimen (NHM M7093 / M8153) is held in the Palaeontology Department at the Museum.

Hippopotamus lemerlei

Hippopotamus lemerlei (NHM M82190): superorbital margin thick or swollen above eye socket.

Map of Madagascar indicating distribution of extinct hippopotamus species.

Map of Madagascar indicating distribution of extinct hippopotamus species.

Typical habitat of the dwarf hippopotamus Madagascar

River running through the central highlands of Madagascar depicting the typical habitat of the dwarf hippopotamus Hippopotamus madagascariensis.

Video

Pigmy hippo's, hobbits and evolutionary dwarfism

Find out how ancient Madagascan hippos have shed light on the origins of the small brain of a 1-metre-tall human, known as the hobbit. The discoveries described in the film were made by scientists at the Natural History Museum and reported in the journal Nature.

You need to download the latest Flash Player to view this video. Visit the website to download the Flash Player