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Extinct Dwarf Pronghorn (Capromeryx minor) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Extinct Dwarf Pronghorn (Capromeryx minor)

How Do We Know This?

Like living animals, fossil remains of once-living animals are
classified and grouped according to their relationships to each other and to their ancestors.
Some fossils yield DNA which helps scientists determine these animals' similarity to living animals.

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

  • Scientific Name: 'capro' is a Latin word meaning 'male goat'; 'meryx' is from the Greek for 'ruminant"; 'minor' is Latin for 'smaller'
  • Common Name: Dwarf Pronghorn
  • The antilocaprids are in need of species-level revision. (Davis 2007)
  • Traditionally this family has been placed with bovids based on horn, teeth, and biochemical characters but molecular data aligns Antilocapridae with the Giraffidae. (Hernández Fernández & Vrba 2005; Murray 2006; Janis 2000)
  • Most classification for members of this family based on horn core anatomy. (Davis 2007)
  • Species of Capromeryx can also be distinguished on the basis of tooth size and shape. (Jiménez-Hidalgo et al 2004)

Evolutionary History

  • The family to which the dwarf-pronghorn belongs (Antilocapridae) first appears in North America between 16 and 20 million years ago.
  • Unlike other hoofed animals like horses, camels and tapirs, the antilocaprids did not migrate into other continents from North America. (Janis and Manning 1998)
  • Species in the genus Capromeryx became progressively smaller over time.
    • Tiny C. minor is the latest of four known species to evolve; it lived between about 300,000 and 11,000 years ago.
    • C. minor is 66% smaller than the earliest Capromeryx species (Davis 2007) (Morgan & Morgan 1995)
  • The genus Capromeryx dates to at least 5 million years ago (Davis 2007)
  • Capromeryx is not directly related to the modern pronghorn genus Antilocapra; both genera lived during the latest Pleistocene times and are known from La Brea asphalt deposits. (Morgan and Morgan 1995; Janis and Manning 1998; Davis 2007).
  • The antilocaprines declined significantly in diversity between Late Miocene and modern times; now the family is represented by only one animal, the North American Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) (Janis 2000)


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla* (even-toed hoofed animals: includes pigs, sheep goats, cattle, deer)

Family: Antilocapridae (includes only one living member - the pronghorn, Antilocacapra americana and many fossil taxa)

Genus: Capromeryx                             

Species: Capromeryx minor (Taylor, 1911)

*Note: New anatomical and DNA evidence on the relationship between Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates) and Cetacea (whales and dolphins) recently led to a merging of the two orders into a new group, Cetartiodactyla (Montgelard, 1997; reviewed in Kulemzina, 2009). As of October 2012, experts had not agreed on whether to define Cetartiodactyla as an official taxonomic order that would replace Artiodactyla and Cetacea. Some continue to list giraffes in the order Artiodactyla (Franklin, 2011) or use the term Cetartiodactyla without defining it as an order (IUCN, 2008).

Page Citations

Davis (2007)
Janis (2000)
Janis & Manning (1998)
Hernández Fernández & Vbra (2005)
Jiménez-Hidalgo (2004)
Morgan & Morgan (1995)

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