On a Madagascar wildlife holiday, there’s plenty to see when you’re trying to catch a glimpse of the island’s animal inhabitants – but take the time to spare a thought for the species that no longer exist to be enjoyed by visitors. Madagascar has been home to an even wider range of species than its current biodiversity, and knowing about some of the animals that once inhabited the island can make for a fascinating look into the country’s history and ecosystem.
There are only a few fossils from which to draw evidence of this elusive creature – but they indicate that at one point the island was home to a species that, at the time of its discovery in 1895, was suggested to be closely related to the aardvark. However, modern forensic techniques have shown that there is actually little evidence to link it to aardvarks, or any other modern mammal. While it is a mystery as to what the creature would look like were it alive to be seen on a Madagascar wildlife holiday today, the bones that have been recovered show adaptations for climbing and sitting, meaning it might have been quite an energetic creature to observe.
This species had a lot in common with the lemurs you’ll see today on your Madagascar wildlife holiday – except for their giant size. They also had many distinctive behavioural traits, including a reliance on terrestrial locomotion to get around (perhaps due to their increased size and weight), as well as a greater dependence on leaf-eating for their diet. The fossil remains of the Giant Lemurs were originally discovered in the 1860’s, and sparked extended paleontological interest which resulted in a number of enthusiastic, but inaccurate, reconstructions of the species during the early 20th century. The remains themselves have been dated to within the last 2000 years, meaning that the human arrival on Madagascar may, sadly, have played a part in the species’ extinction.
Malagasy Dwarf Hippopotamus
Perhaps these creatures would have been an interesting counterpart to seeing Giant Lemurs on an old-fashioned Madagascar wildlife holiday. The Malagasy Dwarf Hippopotamus is, as you might have already guessed, closely related to the hippos of today, but smaller in size. The reason for their small stature may simply have been a case of adapting to the smaller diets available on an island where space is necessarily limited. It’s a shame that such creatures aren’t still in existence on the island today, however the current diversity of species on Madagascar and the amazing animals that still live there more than make up for it.