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Spanish scientists discover primitive four-horned giraffe

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Spanish scientists discover primitive four-horned giraffe
The fossil found in Madrid (left) and a reconstruction of how the animal would have looked. Photo: MNCN/ICP & Óscar Sanisidro
14:24 CET+01:00
A team of paleontologists at Spain's National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN) and the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology (ICP) have discovered a previously unknown species of primitive giraffe after excavating a fossil from millions of years ago.

The Decennatherium rex, a fossil of which was found at the Cerro de los Batallones hill in Madrid, is the oldest and most primitive species in the giraffidae family, to which the modern giraffe and okapi both belong.

The huge animal had four ossicones – the horn-like protuberances found on the heads of giraffes – and stood at around 1.7 metres tall. The remains found in Madrid are nine million years old.


Photo: Maria Rios/Oscar Sanisidro/Israel M. Sanchez

"In contrast to current giraffes, Decennatherium rex did not have the characteristic long neck, and had four ossicones. The smaller pair was found above the eyes, and the other larger and more curved pair behind them," ICP associate investigator Israel M. Sánchez explained in a statement.

It is likely that some of the animals lived at the same time as the first humans, according to the experts, as the species is believed to have survived until around 11,000 years ago.


The fossil found in Madrid. Photo: MNCN/Maria Rios

Madrid’s Cerro de los Batallones has been an incredibly rich source of fossils since the first dig there in 1991, producing thousands of exceptionally well-preserved examples. They have ranged from saber-toothed tigers to amphibians and birds.

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