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Oldest African mammal discovered in Morocco

A new species of placental mammal that is the oldest ever found in Africa was reported by Emmanuel Gheerbrant, Florent Goussard, and Charlène Letenneur from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France and Mbarek Amaghzaz, and Baadi Bouya from the Centre Minier de Khouribga, in Khouribga, Morocco in the Feb. 26, 2014, edition of the journal Public Library of Science.

Ocepeia daouiensis, Selandian, Phosphate level IIa of Sidi Chennane, Ouled Abdoun Basin, Morocco O. daouiensis. Reconstruction of the skull.
Ocepeia daouiensis, Selandian, Phosphate level IIa of Sidi Chennane, Ouled Abdoun Basin, Morocco O. daouiensis. Reconstruction of the skull.
Drawings: C. Letenneur (MNHN). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089739.g012
This reconstruction is based on the bony skull reconstruction.
This reconstruction is based on the bony skull reconstruction.
Drawing: C. Letenneur (MNHN) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089739.g013

Ocepeia daouiensis is the most complete Cenozoic mammal fossil found in Africa to date. The researchers also found a new species that consisted of fragmentary skull bones called Ocepeia grandis. The fossils were discovered in the phosphate sediments of the Ouled Abdoun Basin in Morocco.

The most complete skull measured 3.5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. The researchers estimate the head to have been 33 percent of the animal’s complete length based on comparison to similar mammals from the same time frame.

CT scans and x-ray analysis of the skull and teeth indicated that this is the most complete and oldest known placental mammal ever found in Africa. Similar analysis of the fragmentary Ocepeia grandis defined the fossil as a unique species.

The importance of finding ancient placental mammals in Africa is that theses small creatures are related to and may be evolutionary ancestors of hyraxes, sea cows, elephants and other African mammals.