Hybrid wildebeest (Artiodactyla: Bovidae) provide further evidence for shared signatures of admixture in mammalian crania

  • Rebecca R. Ackermann University of Cape Town
  • James S. Brink National Museum, Bloemfontein
  • Savvas Vrahimis Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Bloemfontein
  • Bonita de Klerk University of the Witwatersrand
Keywords: Connochaetes, conservation, cranial anomalies, dental anomalies, gene flow, hybridisation, South Africa


The genus Connochaetes, Lichtenstein, 1814, contains two extant species, the blue wildebeest (C. taurinus, Burchell, 1823) and the black wildebeest (C. gnou, Zimmermann, 1780). In recent years, forced sympatry in confined areas within South Africa has led to interbreeding between these taxa and to fertile hybrid offspring. Here we report on a series of cranial characteristics of a hybrid wildebeest population culled at Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Dental, sutural and horn morphological anomalies occur at high frequency within these animals. Similar cranial morphological anomalies have been shown in other mammalian hybrids and this study provides further evidence that such anomalies may characterise hybridisation more broadly across phylogenetically divergent mammalian groups, although the anomalies appear to differ in their expression across taxa. An increased ability to identify hybrids may also have important applications in the conservation of the endemic black wildebeest.

Author Biographies

Rebecca R. Ackermann, University of Cape Town

Associate Professor, Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town

James S. Brink, National Museum, Bloemfontein
Centre for Environmental Management, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Savvas Vrahimis, Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Bloemfontein
Biodiversity Planning & Research Component, Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Bloemfontein
Bonita de Klerk, University of the Witwatersrand
Institute for Human Evolution, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg