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Abstract

In this paper 112 skeletal characters in 27 living species of bovids are used in cladistic and phenetic analyses of the relationships among the tribes in the family. Consideration and modification of the cladistic analysis leads to the conclusion that bovids cluster around four foci in ascending evolutionary sequence: Boselaphini and allies; Antilopini and some Neotragini; the Caprinae; and a group of African antelopes containing Aepyceros, Alcelaphini, Reduncini and Hippotragini. This conclusion is quite closely compatible with the phenetic distance analysis of the same data, provided die latter is read as if primitive or early bovids share more similarities than divergently advanced ones and hence associate more closely. Given the primitiveness of Boselaphini and allies, the crucial finding is that Caprinae link with African antelopes and that Antilopini are more remote. Cladistic and phenetic analyses of 32 characters in 12 extinct bovid species produce similar groupings, but also throw doubt on the classification of Aepyceros, Reduncini and Hippotragini alongside Alcelaphini within a clade of African antelopes. As a result of these two sets of studies, of living and of extinct bovids, minimal alterations are proposed to the arrangement of bovid tribes. In addition, Saiga is placed in the Antilopini, and, with less assurance, Pelea in the Neotragini, Aepyceros in the Alcelaphinae, and Pantholops in the Caprinae. The contribution of the fossil record to understanding bovid evolution is considered.