When is an aardvark not an aardvark? When it’s from Madgascar!


I think about extinction a lot. Its hard not to when researching Pleistocene mammals. One of the sobering things about this kind of research is that you become aware of the high likelihood of “unknown unknowns”: animals that existed but left no fossil traces for us to find, no hard evidence to let us know of their time on this planet. The scores of species that are known from just one fossil site, or just a few scraps of unusual bone all but confirm that there must have been species that we will simply never know about. And mammals are the one animal group that we actually have a good handle on. Think about how many Pleistocene fish, insects, and other groups we are likely to have missed.

In these kind of situations it is the insular, endemic, and highly specialised fauna of island ecosystems that are most likely to…

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