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Tragoportax cf. salmontanus (Bovidae, Mammalia) from the Middle Miocene of Pakistan




Tragoportax cf. salmontanus (Bovidae, Mammalia) from the Middle Miocene of Pakistan

Muhammad Asim1, Zaheer Ahmad2, M. Akbar Khan1, M. Adeeb Babar1, Sayyed Ghyour Abbas1,*, Muhammad Khalil Nawaz1, Kiran Aftab3 and Muhammad Akhtar4

1Dr. Abu Bakr Fossil Display and Research Centre, Department of Zoology, Quaid-e-Azam Campus, University of the Punjab, Lahore

2Department of Zoology, Govt. College University, Lahore

3Department of Zoology, University of Gujrat, Gujrat

4Zoology Department, Minhaj University, Lahore


Tragoportax cf. salmontanus have been recovered from the Chinji Formation of the Lower Siwalik Subgroup, Pakistan. The remains comprise horn-cores, maxillary and mandibular fragments, and isolated teeth. Having compared with the previously described bovid remains from the Siwaliks, the new material has been allocated to Tragoportax cf. salmontanus. This species is well represented in the Middle Siwaliks but has not been previously reported from the Middle Miocene Chinji Formation of the Lower Siwalik Subgroup. The present evidence of T. cf. salmontanus in the Middle Miocene Chinji Formation of Pakistan extends the time range for the species from the Middle Miocene to the Late Miocene of Pakistan.

Article Information

Received 07 April 2019

Revised 08 May 2019

Accepted 18 May 2019

Available online 15 May 2020

Authors’ Contribution

MAK, ZA and MA presented the concept and designed the study. MA, and SGA did acquisition of data. MA and MAB analysed and interpreted the data. MKN and KA drafted the manuscript.

Key words

Tragoportax, Siwaliks, Boselaphine, Palaeontology, Taxonomy.


* Corresponding author:

0030-9923/2020/0005-1817 $ 9.00/0

Copyright 2020 Zoological Society of Pakistan


AMNH, American Museum of Natural History, America; GSI, the Geological Survey of India; PC-GCUF, the palaeontological collection of Government College University, Faisalabad, Pakistan.


Boselaphines are one of the principal bovids found in the Late Miocene sites of the Subcontinent, Africa and Eurasia (Pilgrim, 1937, 1939; Gentry, 1970, 1971, 1994; Vrba and Schaller, 2000; Khan et al., 2009, 2010). The Siwalik boselaphines include Eotragus, Elachistoceras, Tragoportax and Miotragocerus (Moya Solà, 1983; Gentry, 1999; Spassov and Geraads, 2004; Khan et al., 2009). Tragoportax is a dominant Late Miocene genus in the Siwaliks and Eurasia (Spassov and Geraads, 2004) and to far south of South Africa (Bibi et al., 2009). It has also been recovered from the Late Miocene of Pikermi, Molayan and Samos (Solounias, 1981; Spassov and Geraads, 2004).

Tragoportax first appeared in the Siwaliks during the latest Middle Miocene (Thomas, 1984) and diversified during the Late Miocene, before going to extinct at the end of Pliocene (Gentry, 1999; Khan et al., 2009, 2010). The genus is represented in the Siwalik by two valid species Tragoportax salmontanus and T. punjabicus (Pilgrim, 1937, 1939; Thomas, 1984; Akhtar, 1992; Spassov and Geraads, 2004; Khan et al., 2010, 2014). There is a single report of this genus from the Middle Miocene Chinji Formation (Khan et al., 2013) however, all the other specimens are found in the Siwalik Late Miocene.

The infrequent collection of Tragoportax is explored from the outcrops of Dhok Bun Amir Khatoon, Parrhewala, Lawa, Bhilomar and Dhok Jand in district Chakwal, Punjab, Pakistan (Fig. 1). These five localities correspond to the Chinji Formation of the Lower Siwalik Subgroup. Among the studied localities, Bhilomar has been dated magnetostratigraphically (Johnson et al., 1985, 1988); other four localities have been correlated lithologically by various researchers (Dehm, 1963; Khan et al., 2011). The Chinji Formation comprises 70% predominant brightly red mud- and siltstone and 30% subsidiary ash gray fine to medium grained sandstone. The formation dates from 14 to 11.4 Ma (Barry et al., 2013). The thickness of this formation differs from place to place. Though, its estimated thickness at type locality is 800 m while in Trans Indus range is 2000 m (Hussain et al., 1979; Kafayat Ullah et al., 2006).

The aim of the present work is to describe Tragoportax material from the Middle Miocene Chinji Formation of Pakistan.


Materials and methods

The completely exposed fossils were collected whereas the partially embedded were excavated carefully with the help of chisels and geological hammers from the localities (Fig. 1). The catalogue number of the specimens represents: PUPC (Punjab University Palaeontological Collection), the collection year (numerator) and a serial number (denominator) of that year (e.g. PUPC 16/45). The horn-core measurements were taken at the base. The anteroposterior diameter (DAP) was the large diameter of horn-core at the base and it might not be parallel to the sagittal plane. The mediolateral diameter (DT) was at right angles to the DAP. The length and width of teeth were measured occlusally. Measurements were taken with digital Vernier caliper in millimeters (mm). The measurements of horn-core and teeth follow Pilgrim (1937, 1939) and Gentry (1999).

Family Bovidae Gray, 1821

Genus Tragoportax Pilgrim, 1937

Tragoportax cf. salmontanus Pilgrim, 1937

Holotype: AMNH 19467, skull without hinder end of the occiput (Pilgrim, 1937).

Type locality: Dhok Pathan (Late Miocene), Punjab, Pakistan.

Diagnosis: As in Pilgrim (1937).

Stratigraphic range: Lower and Middle Siwaliks.

New material (localities are in parenthesis)

Horn-cores: PUPC 18/91, apical portion of right horn-core (Parrewala); PUPC 18/36, basal portion of left horn-core (Bhilomar); PUPC 18/114, middle fragment of left horn-core (Dhok Jand). Upper dentition: PUPC 18/88, lP3 (Parrewala). Lower dentition: PUPC 17/302, rp2 (Lawa); PUPC 15/420, rm1 (Dhok Bun Amir Khatoon); PUPC 14/214, rm1 (Dhok Bun Amir Khatoon); PUPC 15/435, rm1 (Dhok Bun Amir Khatoon); PUPC 14/210, rm2-m3 (Dhok Bun Amir Khatoon).


The horn-core (PUPC 18/91) is slightly twisted (Fig. 2C). The anterior keel is well developed and acute. It is convex medially but flat laterally. The cross section is subtriangular. The DAP is 30.76 mm and DT is 17.91 mm.

PUPC 18/36 (Fig. 2B) is a basal fragment of left horn-core. A small portion of pedicel is also preserved. It is slightly twisted. The keel is partially preserved due to breakage and extreme weathering of the horn-core (Fig. 2B). The lateral side is flat and the medial is convex. A depression is present at the base of the keel due to weathering. The cross section is somewhat elliptical. The DAP is 28.54 mm and DT is 19.96 mm.


PUPC 18/114 (Fig. 2A) - portion of left horn-core. The horn-core is highly weathered, partially broken, belonging to the middle part as the basal part and the apical part is missing (Fig. 2A). The outer surface is flat and the inner surface is convex. It is slightly twisted. It is expanded medially. The cross section is subtriangular. The keel is blunt due to weathering. The DAP is 32.96 mm and DT is 22.79 mm.

Upper dentition

The parastyle and anterior rib are strong whereas the metastyle is slightly less developed in P3 (Fig. 2D). The third premolar is extremely worn resulting in loss of the posterior part of the median fossette. The median fossette is partially divided. The roots are also preserved especially the lingual one.

Lower dentition

PUPC 17/302 (Fig. 2E) is a right mandibular fragment with partial p2. The corpus is fragile. It is mostly preserved at the labial side and missing at the lingual side. The lingual conids are broken. The protoconid, anterior valley, protoconid and some portion of the metaconid are preserved. The tooth is moderately worn.

PUPC 15/420 is much worn right first molar (Fig. 2F). The apex of the hypoconid is partially broken. The transverse flange is small and thin. The fossettids are narrow. The ectostylid is small. The metastylid and entostylid are incipient whereas the mesostylid is thick. The apices of the lingual conids are round.

PUPC 14/214 and PUPC 15/435 are well preserved first right molars. The labial conids are higher and pointed. PUPC 15/435 is in middle wear whereas PUPC 14/214 is more worn. The goat fold is well developed in PUPC 15/435 and absent in PUPC 14/214. The stylids and median ribs are weakly developed. The fossettids are narrower in PUPC 14/214 than PUPC 15/435. The transverse valley is wider and contains small ectostylid at the base in PUPC 14/214 whereas the second one has narrow valley without ectostylid. The posthypocristid is moderately developed only in PUPC 15/435.

PUPC 14/ 210 includes right m2-3. The molar is less preserved and is in early wear (Fig. 2G). The ectostylid is absent in the median valley. The metastylid is comparatively more developed. The metaconid is broken at the top whereas other conids are well preserved. The postfossette is deeper than the prefossettid. The third molar is partially damaged and in early wear. The hypoconulid is broken completely. All the conids are well-preserved. The labial conids are somewhat lower than the lingual ones. The enamel is thin and slightly rugose. The entostylid is also broken whereas the meso- and metastylids are conspicuous. The metaconid rib is comparatively more developed than the entoconid rib.


Table I.- The tooth measurements (in millimeters) of Tragoportax cf. salmontanus. The material for comparison is from Pilgrim (1937), Akhtar (1992), Khan et al. (2010) and Batool et al. (2014).

Taxa / Number

Nature and position




T. cf. salmontanus

PUPC 18/88*





PUPC 17/302*





PUPC 15/420*





PUPC 14/214*





PUPC 15/435*





PUPC 14/210*









PC-GCUF 12/11





T. punjabicus

PUPC 87/327





GSI B486





GSI B563









GSI B564









AMNH 29884









PUPC 83/277





PUPC 97/11






*the specimens under study. ca- indicate the incomplete measurement of m3.


Comparison and Discussion

The Middle Miocene Siwalik bovids include Miotragocerus, Sivaceros, Elachistoceras, Helicoportax, Sivoreas and Tragoportax (Pilgrim, 1937, 1939; Solounias, 1981; Spassov and Geraads, 2004). The studied horn-cores differ from Miotragocerus in having well-developed posterolateral keel and clearly delineation (Solounias, 1981; Spassov and Geraads, 2004). Sivaceros has significantly stout horn-cores with elongated oval cross section (Khan et al., 2011). The small size and elliptical or oval cross section of PUPC 18/36 owes to the juvenile individual as reported by Spassov and Geraads (2004). Elachistoceras khauristanensis differs in having small size, simple conical forms horn-cores with a straight axis (Thomas, 1977; Akhtar and Nayyer, 2001). Helicoportax have subtriangular cross section, much flattened medial surface and strongly convex lateral surface, and sharp antero-internal keel and rounded postero-internal keel. Sivoreas has horn-cores with elliptical cross section and show pronounced torsion (Made and Hussain, 1993).

The morphological features like slender horn-cores with well-marked keel, and archetypal triangular to subtriangular shape cross section with noticeable anterior keel associate them with the Middle Miocene Siwalik bovid Tragoportax (Pilgrim, 1937; Khan et al., 2010). The horn-cores of Tragoportax differ from other Siwalik bovids with respect to the torsion. A slight torsion is found in Tragoportax whereas the small boselaphine Eotragus and Sivaceros and non-boselaphine genus Gazella have no torsion (Thomas, 1984; Made and Hussain, 1993). Tragoportax is represented by two species in the Siwaliks: T. punjabicus and T. salmontanus (Pilgrim, 1937, 1939). Tragoportax punjabicus is large species (Khan et al., 2010) whereas T. salmontanus is comparatively small species (Pilgrim, 1937, 1939). The studied horn-cores are comparatively smaller than T. punjabicus (Table I). The horn-cores of T. salmontanus are short with less antero-posterior diameter (Pilgrim, 1937). The cross section and size of the studied horn-cores are similar to T. salmontanus, therefore, on the basis of the morphometric characters, the horn-cores can be reasonably assigned to T. cf. salmontanus.

The genus Tragoportax holds characters between Miotragocerus and Selenoportax. The horn-cores of Tragoportax are related to Miotragocerus in cross-section, with scalene triangle, having sharp postero-external keel whereas differentiated from the isosceles triangle of Selenoportax, having rounded postero-external keel. The horn-cores of European Tragoportax are little tending, less twisted and longer than those of the Lower Siwalik Tragoportax (Pilgrim, 1939; Kostopoulos, 2005, 2009; Khan et al., 2010).

The compressed outer cusps/conids and the divergent styles/stylids of the studied molars favor their addition in the Middle Miocene boselaphines of the Siwalik Group. In the Lower Siwaliks, Eotragus, Helicoportax and Elachistoceras are small sized boselaphines (Pilgrim, 1937, 1939; Akhtar, 1992; Khan et al., 2009), and Tragoportax and Miotragocerus are medium sized boselaphines (Khan et al., 2009). The described specimens distinguish from Miotragocerus due to lack of the highly accentuated molar array (Spassov and Geraads, 2004). The material is alike T. salmontanus (Pilgrim, 1937; fig. 61, p. 834) and can be positively assigned to T. cf. salmontanus (Fig. 2; Table I).

Tragoportax was erected by Pilgrim (1937), on the basis of T. salmontanus that is a renowned species of the Siwaliks. Bibi et al. (2009) named this group as Tragoportacini. It was prevalent during the Turolian in Europe and south Asia (Bibi and Gulec, 2008).

Tragoportax is a common genus in the Siwaliks during the Late Miocene (Pilgrim, 1939; Akhtar, 1992; Khan et al., 2010; Babar, 2017). Tragoportax punjabicus is restricted to the Late Miocene of the Siwalik Group (Nagri and Dhok Pathan formations) (Pilgrim, 1939; Akhtar, 1992; Khan et al., 2010), whereas T. salmontanus is known to appear in the Middle Miocene of the Siwalik Group (Chinji Formation). With the description of these specimens, the stratigraphic range of T. salmontanus is extended to the Middle Miocene Chinji Formation. The presence of T. salmontanus in the Middle Miocene of the Potwar plateau, Pakistan represents the oldest record in the Siwalik Group and extends its geochronological range from the Middle Miocene to Late Miocene of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, the Chinji T. salmontanus begs further study in the light of more samples to confirm the first appearance of the species in the Siwalik Middle Miocene.



The record of T. cf. salmontanus in the Middle Miocene represents the oldest record of the species in the subcontinent. Tragoportax cf. salmontanus is being reported for the first time from the Middle Miocene Chinji Formation of Pakistan. Earlier, this species has been documented from the Late Miocene of the Siwaliks. The findings confirm that T. cf. salmontanus appears in the Middle Miocene of the Siwalik Group, which extends the stratigraphic range of this species from the Late Miocene to Middle Miocene of the Siwalik Group.



University of the Punjab, Lahore is acknowledged for funding and facilitating this research work.


Statement of conflict of interest

Authors have declared no conflict of interest.



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