Prehistoric Pronghorn: Ancient Antelope
This exhibit showcased the rich fossil history of the American Pronghorn
Antelope. Today all that remains of this original American family is one
species, unrelated to the African antelope with which it is confused. The
exhibit featured actual fossils and skeletons as well as life sized
reconstructions of extinct pronghorns. Prehistoric Pronghorn came to
AzMNH from the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson.
Modern pronghorns inhabit the deserts and dry grasslands of western North
America. They are medium-sized animals, measuring from 3-4.5 feet in length
and weighing up to 100 pounds. Their body is stocky and they have long, thin
legs. Their coat is pale brown with a whitish belly and rump, and they have
distinctive black and white markings on their heads and necks. The horns are
erect and consist of two branches or prongs, a short branch extending
forward and located about halfway up the horn and a longer, backwardly
Pronghorn antelopes are among the fastest long-distance runners,
achieving bursts of speed up to 60 miles per hour, and they are able to
maintain speeds in excess of 30 mph for distances of several miles.
Pronghorns are found in small herds or bands during the summer, and in
larger groups of up to 100 individuals in winter. Their herds have a well
developed social hierarchy.
Today only one species exists in the family Antilocapridae, but the group
has a fossil record dating to the Miocene, about 20 million years ago.
During its history, the Antilocapridae has included a variety of species,
some of which had multiple and bizarre horns. The exhibition featured a
pronghorn family tree, which features some of these distinctive animals.
In 2005, the Arizona Museum of Natural History excavated two tusks and a
neck vertebra, probably from one or more Columbian Mammoths, in the city of
Gilbert, Arizona. In addition to ancient elephant, paleontologists found
fossil horse, llama, tortoise, and a single tooth of Stockoceros, a
prehistoric pronghorn. The mural, by artist Craig Chelpy, shows fauna of the
Plio-Pleistocene (2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago), including American
lion, camel, horse, peccary, tortoise and sloth, in a landscape that might
well have included ancient pronghorn. The case below displays the fossils.
Stockoceros is known from three localities in Arizona: the original
site of Papago Springs Cave, Ventana Cave, and the Gilbert mammoth site.
53 N. Macdonald
Mesa, AZ 85201
(One block north of Main Street in downtown Mesa. Take US 60 or 202 to
Country Club Drive, go to Main Street, and proceed one-half mile east to