Philippines, dwarf buffalo fossil discovered

Cebu dwarf buffalo in the Philippines

From the Field Museum in the USA:

New dwarf buffalo discovered by chance in the Philippines

First new fossil mammal from the Philippines in 50 years

CHICAGO–Almost 50 years ago, Michael Armas, a mining engineer from the central Philippines, discovered some fossils in a tunnel he was excavating while exploring for phosphate.

Forty years later, Dr. Hamilcar Intengan, a friend of his who now lives in Chicago, recognized the importance of the bones and donated them to The Field Museum.

If not for the attention and foresight of these two individuals, science might never have documented what has turned out to be an extremely unusual species of dwarf water buffalo, now extinct.

The new species, described in the October issue of the Journal of Mammalogy, has been named Bubalus cebuensis (BOO-buh-luhs seh-boo-EN-sis) after the Philippine island of Cebu, where it was found.

Its most distinctive feature is its small size.

While large domestic water buffalo stand six feet at the shoulder and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, B. cebuensis would have stood only two-and-one-half feet and weighed about 350 pounds.

B. cebuensis, which evolved from a large-sized continental ancestor to dwarf size in the oceanic Philippines, is the first well-supported example of “island dwarfing” among cattle and their relatives.

“Natural selection can produce dramatic body-size changes.

On islands where there is limited food and a small population, large mammals often evolve to much smaller size,” said Darin Croft, lead author of the study and a professor of anatomy at Case Western Reserve University.

Significant finding on several levels

Water buffalo are members of the cattle family and are placed in the genus Bubalus, which includes four living species.

Two species, Bubalus bubalis and B. mindorensis are closely related, and the new fossil species appears to be a close relative of this pair.

B. bubalis is the well-known domestic water buffalo.

B. mindorensis, popularly known as a tamaraw, is also a dwarf, although at about three feet tall at the shoulder and 500 pounds it is considerably larger than the newly discovered species.

The highly endangered tamaraw lives only on the Philippine island of Mindoro.

Two poorly known species of the genus Bubalus from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, known as anoas, are more distantly related.

The new species, B. cebuensis, teaches scientists a great deal about the entire buffalo genus.

Its discovery on Cebu–in combination with the occurrence of the rare tamaraw on Mindoro and a report of fossil teeth potentially referable to Bubalus on Luzon–indicates that this genus might have once lived throughout the Philippines, most of which is an oceanic archipelago, never connected to any continental land mass.

“Documenting past mammal diversity in the Philippines, an area of extremely high conservation priority, is vital for understanding the evolutionary development of the modern Philippine flora and fauna and how to preserve it,” said Larry Heaney, a co-author of the study and curator of mammals at The Field Museum.

“The concentration of unique mammal species there is among the very highest in the world, but so is the number of threatened species.”

B. cebuensis also can help scientists to better understand “island dwarfing,” whereby some large mammals confined to an island shrink in response to evolutionary factors.

This may occur due to a lack of predators (the animal no longer needs to be large to avoid being eaten) and/or limited food (smaller animals require less food).

The research could provide insights into debates on the evolution of small-bodied species elsewhere in the tropics such as the proposed new hominid, Homo floresiensis, found on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003.

7 thoughts on “Philippines, dwarf buffalo fossil discovered

  1. Please pass on to others, so people may know the truth.

    MIGRANTE Europe
    In cold blood
    By Patricia Evangelista
    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    Last updated 10:42am (Mla time) 11/19/2006
    Published on page A13 of the November 19, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

    LAST April, workers from the Metal Ore Mining Company of Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan were detained by members of the AFP’s 56th Infantry Battalion. According to the International Labor Solidarity mission, the workers were released the next day, after the barangay captain filed a police blotter and negotiated their release. Four workers were missing: manager Bernabe Mendiola, married; couple Virgilio and Teresa Calilap; and security guard Oscar Leuterio.

    Oscar now sits on the stand, a witness in a habeas corpus case filed against the military. If the case is won, the military will be compelled to release the bodies of abducted UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, as well as Manuel Merino, the farmer who tried to help them.

    Asked about the military’s denials that the girls were in their possession, Oscar’s voice is low but distinct.

    “That is a lie.”

    Oscar interrupts his own testimony with his coughing, the hacking, painful cough of an old man. He is only 48 years old.

    At 10:35 in the morning of April 17, nearly 30 masked military men and five known members of the Cafgu stormed out of a nearby forest. The mine workers were forced to the ground. Oscar, the Calilap couple and Mendiola were singled out and bound.

    “They began to beat us, kick us, and hit us with the butts of M16s and M14s, while asking who and where the NPAs were,” says Oscar in his statement. “They had us on the ground from 10:25 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.”

    At 5, the four were blindfolded and put inside a truck. “Around 10 that night, we entered Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan. I know this because my blindfold was loose, and we passed under a lighted arc that said Camp Tecson. They brought us to what I think was the back of the camp, and put us inside a small hut.

    “My blindfold fell when a man named Boy Muslim began walloping my head with a 2 x 3 sheet of wood. My head burst. He was wearing a yellow T-shirt and denim pants and he was obviously drunk. He ground my toes and fingers with the 2 x 3. They burst. He used the 2 x 3 to hit me on the legs and knees. When he hit me again in the head, I lost consciousness.”

    They were loaded into a van the next day. “I found out later that they brought us to Fort Magsaysay, because I heard voices of men talking about going to market in Cabanatuan the next day. I knew the camp had an airstrip. I could hear airplanes taking off and descending.”

    They were brought into a house with four cells in a row. The floor of each cell was 3 feet by 5 feet, the cement walls 5-feet high and a toit made from a hollow block in the corner.

    “They took off our bandages and bindings to let us heal. They began torturing us on the seventh day. They hit me with a water hose on different parts of my body while asking me where arms were hidden and who was carrying arms. It lasted five minutes.”

    A month later, the soldiers brought in another prisoner. His name was Manuel Sioson. In a May 11 Malaya news article, Manuel Sioson, 35, was reported to have been abducted on May 5 by armed men riding two passenger jeepneys.
    “Manuel could no longer walk, because of the length of time he spent bent inside another cell that was intentionally too small for such a big man.”

    Seven weeks later, the soldiers let go of one of Oscar’s companions, the mine manager, Mendiola. His cell was occupied by Bernabe Javier. In an article, Bong Cruz of Hagonoy, Bulacan, quoted a police report that said one Bernabe Javier had been abducted by the military and Cafgu last July 2, 2006.

    “In the first week of August 2006,” continues Oscar’s statement, “because of so much beating and torture, Bernabe Javier hanged himself in his cell using the doubled garter from his underwear. The soldiers buried him beside the house. One night, when the soldiers were drinking, Oscar heard them say that two pretty girls had been captured. The soldiers wanted to make the girls dance.

    One soldier said, ‘Those two should be good to lust over.’ I saw them pass near the door of my cell,” says Oscar. “They were blindfolded, and I noticed one of them was tall, and her teeth stuck out in front.” It is an accurate description of Empeño.

    In an episode of the TV show “Debate,” host Winnie Monsod asked Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan about the allegation that the military was responsible for the abductions of UP students Empeño and Cadapan, as well as Merino.

    He claimed his soldiers knew nothing of the incident, but said that there had been two girls and a man picked up in the area, “But they are real NPA, who for five years were dominating the area.” How possible is it that two girls and one man could be abducted at roughly the same time in a small town like Hagonoy?

    “I could hear them beating up a man outside,” says Oscar. “When they said ‘MM’, I knew that this was my friend Manuel Merino because it was his nickname.”

    On July 23, the soldiers led out the Calilap couple, Oscar’s two remaining companions from Metal Ore. “They had to let Teresa heal, because she lost her mind after the torture. Every time they took her out of her cell to be interrogated, I could hear her pleading and begging. “Tama na, ayoko na. Hirap na ‘ko.” And I could hear the pleading of others. “Tama na, hirap na ako, at matatae na ako.”

    On Aug. 29, Oscar and Sioson were moved to the Office of the Commanding General. Three weeks before they let him , he was blindfolded and taken to speak to the man the soldiers called “lolo.”

    “I found out from the soldiers that the man was Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. He told me that they would let me live for as long as I helped them.”
    Oscar and Sioson were freed on Sept. 14, 2006. They were told to wait inside their homes for instructions on where to report. Oscar stayed home for two weeks, but found a cell phone and called his son to pick him up.

    Before Oscar left the fort, the soldiers told him never to let on that he had seen Mendiola, the mine manager who was the first to be released. Mendiola, says Oscar, never arrived home. Oscar believes he was killed by the soldiers. “I saw a new grave behind the house.”

    This is why there are mothers who cry during court hearings, and why a coughing man in a blue jacket is risking his life. This is why there are dozens of families all over the country who wait in quiet agony. It is hoped that the court’s coming verdict will bring home the people who plead “Tama na.”
    * * *
    Leuterio’s entire testimony was in Filipino. I have taken the liberty of translating it into English. For comments, just text: PM REBEL name, age, location, message then send to 2948 for Globe/Sun and 3940 for smart. E-mail at


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