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Lights and shadows in the evolutionary patterns of insular bovids


  • Roberto ROZZI,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Earth Sciences, Sapienza, University of Rome, Rome, Italy
    • Correspondence: Roberto Rozzi, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza Università di Roma, P.le Aldo Moro, 5, 00185 Roma, Italy. Email:

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  • Maria Rita PALOMBO

    1. Department of Earth Sciences, Sapienza, University of Rome, Rome, Italy
    2. Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche–Istituto di Geologia Ambientale e Geoingegneria (DNR–IGAG), Rome, Italy
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Endemic bovids are intriguing elements of insular faunas. The living species include the Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus) and the Formosan serow (C. swinhoei), the tamaraw from Mindoro, Philippines, (Bubalus mindorensis) and the anoas (B. depressicornis and B. quarlesi), 2 species of dwarf buffalos endemic to Sulawesi, Indonesia. Fossil endemic bovids are only recorded in some Asian, North American and Western Mediterranean islands. Here we present a comprehensive overview of the changes in body size and evolutionary patterns exhibited by both extant and extinct insular bovids. Our appraisal indicates that each insular representative of Bovidae shows its own peculiar evolutionary model, albeit some parallel trends exist (e.g. reduction in body size, allometric changes in limb bones, alteration of the life history traits). Some changes in morphology (e.g. the simplification of horn cores, the increase in hypsodonty, the acquisition of a ‘low-gear’ locomotion), for instance, appear as common, albeit not general, patterns triggered by a combination of selective forces. Body size patterns support the ‘generality of the island rule’ and suggest that biotic interaction had/have a major role in influencing body size evolution in these species, although in different ways on different islands. All things considered, available evidence suggest that a major role in the evolution of insular bovids is played by the structure of the insular community, the nature of available niches and by the dynamics of ecological interactions.