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The Year in Science: Animals 1997

Lost Pig Found

By Josie GlausiuszJanuary 1, 1998 6:00 AM


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When Colin Groves unpacked this skull of Sus bucculentus, a Vietnamese pig (top photograph), he knew the animal hadn’t been dead long. It was still slightly smelly and had a bit of flesh on it, he recalls. This was strange because S. bucculentus was presumed extinct; no scientist had seen one—dead or alive—for more than a century. Two years ago, however, villagers in the heavily forested Annamite Range along the Laos-Vietnam border gave the skull to George Schaller of New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society, allowing as how they had long enjoyed hunting and eating the pig. Schaller sent it to Groves at the Australian National University in Canberra. After comparing it with a century-old skull in a Beijing museum (above), and after some genetic tests on the flesh, Groves identified it this past year as S. bucculentus. It resembles the Javan warty pig, he says, which has short legs, a long snout, and a warty face. The Vietnamese Sus joins a growing list of newly discovered mammals from the isolated Annamite Range, including the antelope-like Pseudoryx and a new type of deer. It’s an exceptional habitat, says Groves, very precipitous, extremely wet and humid, and difficult to get through. Things have survived there that have long gone extinct elsewhere.

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