UAE Fossil Experts Identify New Species of Hippopotamus

Fossil experts from the UAE have identified a previously unknown species of hippos. They made the discovery while studying the fossils of an extinct relative of the hippopotamus that lived in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region.

The new hippo species has been named Archaeopotamus qeshta. The first word translates to “ancient river,” while the second comes from an Egyptian dialect word for hippopotamus, which means “cream.” The study was published in Palaeo Vertebrata, a scientific journal.

Jaw of the previously unknown species of hippopotamus, Archaeopotamus qeshta.
Image Credit: WAM News Agency

New Hippo Species Identified in Abu Dhabi

The Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA), Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, stated that they have five exploration projects on historical and archaeological sites in the emirate. They learned that the Al Dhafra region used to be rich in flora and fauna.

“Scientific research continues to reveal that the Al Dhafra region was once an area quite different from today’s arid environment,” he explained. “These significant finds indicate that a very extensive river system flowed throughout the area with many kinds of animals sustained by this environment.”

Millions of years ago, many animals and plants thrived in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi.
Image Credit: WAM News Agency

A Fascinating Chapter in UAE History
“This is yet another important study adding to our knowledge of the ancient environment of Abu Dhabi,” commented Dr. Mark Beech, one of the authors of the paper and Head of Coastal Archaeology and Palaeontology in TCA Abu Dhabi’s Historic Environment Department. “We still have much more to learn about this fascinating chapter in the history of the UAE,” he declared.

Dr. Beech added that they plan to continue studying the fossil sites in the Al Dhafra region. He also emphasized the importance of protecting such sites for future scientific research.

“One Thousand and One Fossils”
Recently, TCA Abu Dhabi co-published a book entitled, One Thousand and One Fossils – Discoveries in the Desert at Al Gharbia, United Arab Emirates, together with Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. The fossils come from a geological region known as the Baynunah Formation, which spans the coastal areas of Al Dhafra and other parts of the UAE.

The Baynunah Formation has produced the only known fossils of animals in the Arabian Peninsula during the Late Miocene period, between 6 and 8 million years ago. These include fossils of early crocodiles, elephants, fish, gazelles, giraffes, horses, turtles, and other animals.

Just like their ancestors, hippos today live near rivers and lakes.
Image Credit: WAM News Agency

It is truly amazing to know that millions of years ago, the Al Dhafra region in Abu Dhabi used to have large rivers, woodlands, and open plains – a thriving, rich habitat for many animals and plants. Indeed, discoveries such as these teach us more about the Arabian Peninsula’s fascinating history.


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