Ungulates

Article

May 28, 2022

Ungulates (Artiodactyla) are a sect of large terrestrial herbivorous mammals. The ungulates concentrate their weight on an even number (two or four) of the horn-coated toes. Infertile animals, on the other hand, have an odd number of toes. There are ten cloven-hoofed tribes and they have traditionally been further subdivided into three subspecies, the porcine (Suiformes), the camel (Tylopoda) and the ruminant (Ruminantia). The division does not fully reflect the current notion of tribal kinship, nor does the traditional sectarian genus itself form a unified line of development, as whales have been found to be the closest relatives of hippopotamus. The traditional subdivision classification is therefore not always used. Hoofed animals have been very successful mammals. These include 240 different species alive, and different species have adapted to cold and also scorching hot areas. Although the species are large in size, more and more new species have been found in Southeast Asia, among others. Many species are threatened with extinction due to poaching and declining habitats due to deforestation or other factors. Hippos are the only traditional ungulates that have adapted, at least in part, to aquatic life. The heaviest species is the hippopotamus living in Africa, which weighs about 4.5 tons, while the lightest and smallest ungulates are dwarf goats (about 1 kg, height at withers 35 cm). The longest neck is a giraffe. Many ungulates are important in game and agricultural production, including pig, sheep, goat and cattle.

Evolution

Origin of ungulates

The fossil of the animal, which is classified as the earliest ungulate, dates back to the Early Allenic period, about 54 million years ago. The animal belonged to the genus Diacodexis and is classified as a camelid. Dinosaurs had become extinct about 10 million years earlier, freeing up new ecological compartments for mammals and enabling mammals to grow larger and make more use of different food sources. Before the end of the Cretaceous mass extinction, that is, during the reign of the dinosaurs, mammals were mostly small in size (the largest about a meter in length) and ate mostly invertebrates. Towards the end of the Cretaceous, mammals also began to make more use of plants for food. Diacodexis ungulates were omnivorous and had five toes on each leg, but the third and fourth toes had begun to elongate, strongly suggesting ungulates. Their roll bone structure was also the same as in current ungulates. These first ungulates were still small in size (50 cm) but long-legged, suggesting agility and rapid-leggedness. Of the current species, they resembled dwarf deer, although their tail is clearly more modest than that of their predecessors. The origin of prehistoric ungulates has remained somewhat unclear, but the closest relative may have been the Chriacus mammals, which belonged to the sect of the Condylarthra, developed in the early Paleocene. Here, the developmental line of ungulates meets the developmental lines of solipeds, whales, and Paenungulata mammals (elephants, sirens, and tamans). The rapid development of ungulates during the Eocene has been seen as an indication that they could not develop in the cold Holarctic region, but it is from this region that the earliest fossils originated. At an early stage, ungulates that had adapted to the aquatic life of wet bogs developed. They developed the ancestors of hippos (Anthracotheriidae) and whales (Archeoceti).

Evolution of ungulates

Current categories of ungulates (pigs, camels and ruminants)