Hippopotamus lemerlei Grandidier in Milne-Edwards, 1868

Madagascan dwarf hippopotamus, Malagasy dwarf hippopotamus, Malagasy hippo, Lemerle's hippopotamus



Taxonomy & Nomenclature



Conservation Status


Last record: 1215 ± 25 14C age BP ± SD (Michielsen et al., 2023)

IUCN RedList status: Extinct


Reports of Hippopotamus madagascariensis (=H. lemerlei) were made up until 1976 (Burney & Ramilisonina, 1998). However, the extant Common hippo[potamus] has been known to swim from Africa to Madagascar (Mahé, 1972), and hence could be the source of some or all such reports. However, Paul Mazza* has called into question the possibility of Hippo's swimming or rafting generally, but to Madagascar especially (Mazza, In Press; P. Mazza, pers. comm. May 2014). His views have been criticised by (van der Geer et al. In Press).


*Department of Earth Sciences, University of Florence, Italy





Biology & Ecology










Original scientific description:

Grandidier, A. (1868). Sur les découvertes zoologiques faites récemment à Madagascar. Annales des Sciences naturelles, 5 Zoologie et Paléontologie X: 375–378.


Other references:

Boisserie, J.-R. 2016. Hippopotamus lemerlei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T40782A90128915. Downloaded on 23 July 2016.

Burney, D. A., Pigott, B. L., Godfrey, L. R., Jungers, W. L., Goodmane, S. M., Wright, H. T. and Jull, A. J. T. 2004. A chronology for late prehistoric Madagascar. Journal of Human Evolution: 25-63.

Burney, D. A. and Ramilisonina. (1998). The kilopilopitsofy, kidoky and bokyboky: accounts of strange animals from Belo-sur-Mer, Madagascar, and the megafaunal “extinction window”. American Anthropologist 100(4): 957-966. [automatic download]

Crowley, B. E. A refined chronology of prehistoric Madagascar and the demise of the megafauna. Quat. Sci. Rev. 29, 2591–2603 (2010).

Crowley, Brooke Erin, Godfrey, Laurie Rohde and Samonds, Karen Elizabeth. (2023). What can hippopotamus isotopes tell us about past distributions of C4 grassy biomes on Madagascar? Plants, People, Planet.

Dewar, R. E. 1984. Extinctions in Madagascar. The loss of the subfossil fauna. In: P. S. Martin and R. G. Klein (eds), Quaternary extinctions. A prehistoric revolution, pp. 574-593. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ, USA.

Faure, M. and Guérin, C. 1990. Hippopotamus laloumena nov. sp., la troisième espèce d'hippopotame holocène de Madagascar. Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences 310: 1299-1305.

Faure, M., Guérin, C. and Ohler, A.-M. 2015. Le statut du nom Hippopotamus madagascariensis Guldberg, 1883. Réponse à Rakotovao et al. 2014. Geodiversitas 37: 267-269.

Faure, M., Guérin, C., Genty, D., Gommery, D. and Ramanivosoa, B. 2010. Le plus ancien hippopotame fossile (Hippopotamus laloumena) de Madagascar (Belobaka, Province de Mahajanga). Comptes Rendus Palevol 9: 155-162.

Flacourt, E. 1661. Histoire de la grande isle de Madagascar. Pierre L'Amy, Paris, France.

Forsyth Major, C. J. (1902). Some account of a nearly complete skeleton of Hippopotamus madagascariensis Guld., from Sirabé, Madagascar, obtained in 1895. Geological Magazine IX, 455: 193-199.

Fovet W., Faure M. and Guérin C. (2011). Hippopotamus guldbergi n. sp.: revision of the status of Hippopotamus madagascariensis Guldberg, 1883, after more than a century of misunderstanding and taxonomical confusions. Zoosystema 33(1):61-82. [Abstract]

Godfrey, L. R. (1986). The Tale of the Tsy-aomby-aomby. The Sciences [1986]: 49-51.

Gommery, D., Ramanivosoa, B., Faure, M., Guérin, C., Kerloc’h, P., Sénégas, F. and Randrianantenaina, H. 2011. Les plus anciennes traces d’activités anthropiques de Madagascar sur des ossements d’hippopotames subfossiles d’Anjohibe (Province de Mahajanga). Comptes Rendus Palevol 10: 271-278.

Goodman, S. M. & Jungers, W. L. Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the island’s past. (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

Guldberg G. A. (1883). Undersøgelser over en subfossil flodhest fra Madagascar. Christiania Videnskabsselskab forhandlinger 6: 1-24. (in Riksmaal language)

Hampe, Oliver, Schwarz-Wings, D., Bickelmann, C. and Klein, N. (2010). Fore limb bones of late Pleistocene dwarf hippopotamuses (Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla) from Madagascar previously determined as belonging to the crocodylid Voay Brochu, 2007. Fossil Record 13: 303-307. [Abstract]

Joseph, Grant S. and Seymour, Colleen L. (2022). Are Madagascar's obligate grazing-lawns ancient and evolved with endemic herbivores, or recently selected by introduced cattle? Biology Letters 18: 20220212.

Kouvari, M. & van der Geer, A. A. E. Biogeography of extinction: The demise of insular mammals from the Late Pleistocene till today. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 505, 295–304 (2018).

MacPhee, R. D. E. and Burney, David A. (1991). Dating of modified femora of extinct dwarf Hippopotamus from Southern Madagascar: Implications for constraining human colonization and vertebrate extinction events. Journal of Archaeological Science 18: 695-706.

MacPhee, R.D.E. and Flemming, C. 1999. Requiem Aeternam. The last five hundred years of mammalian extinctions. In: R.D.E. MacPhee (ed.), Extinctions in Near Time, pp. 333-371. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, USA.

Mahé, J. (1972). The Malagasy subfossils, pp. 339-366. In: Battistini, R. and Richard-Vindard, G. (eds.). Biogeography and Ecology in Madagascar. The Hague, Netherlands: W. Junk.

Mahé, J., and Sourdat, M. (1972). Sur l'extinction des vertébrés subfossiles et I'aridification du climat dans le sud-ouest de Madagascar. Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France 14: 295-309.

Mazza, Paul P. A. (2014). If Hippopotamuses cannot swim, how did they colonize islands? Lethaia. DOI: 10.1111/let.12074 [Abstract]

Michielsen, Nathan M., Goodman, Steven M., Soarimalala, Voahangy, van der Geer, Alexandra A. E., Dávalos, Liliana M., Saville, Grace I., Upham, Nathan and Valente, Luis. (2023). The macroevolutionary impact of recent and imminent mammal extinctions on Madagascar. Nature Communications 14: 14. [Supplementary Data 1 (mammal list); Supplementary Data 6 (references)]

Muldoon, Kathleen M. et al. (2012). Early Holocene fauna from a new subfossil site: A first assessment from Christmas River, south central Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 7(1): 23-29.

Pandolfi, Luca et al. (2020). Investigating ecological and phylogenetic constraints in Hippopotamidae skull shape. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafi (Research in Paleontology and Stratigraphy) 126(1): 37-49.

Rakotovao, Marius et al. (2014). Hippopotamus lemerlei Grandidier, 1868 et Hippopotamus madagascariensis Guldberg, 1883 (Mammalia, Hippopotamidae) : anatomie crânio-dentaire et révision systématique. Geodiversitas 36(1): 117-161. [Abstract]

Raybaud. (1902). Rapport de M. I'administrateur Raybaud sur les gisements fossiliferes d'Ampasambazimba. Bulletin de l'Academie Malgache 1(2): 64-67.

Rosenberger, Alfred L. et al. (In Press, 2015). Giant subfossil lemur graveyard discovered, submerged, in Madagascar. Journal of Human Evolution.

Samonds, Karen E. et al. (2019). A new late Pleistocene subfossil site (Tsaramody, Sambaina basin, central Madagascar) with implications for the chronology of habitat and megafaunal community change on Madagascar’s Central Highlands. Journal of Quaternary Science 34(6): 379-392.

Simmons, A. H. (1988). Extinct pigmy hippopotamus and early man in Cyprus. Nature 333: 554-557.

Stuenes, S. (1989). Taxonomy, habits, and relationships of the subfossil Madagascan hippopotami Hippopotamus lemerlei and H. madagascariensis. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 9(3): 241-268.

Turvey, Samuel T. (2009). Holocene mammal extinctions, pp. 41-61. In: Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford, UK & New York, USA: Oxford University Press. xii + 352 pp.

Turvey, Samuel T. and Fritz, Susanne A. (2011). The ghosts of mammals past: biological and geographical patterns of global mammalian extinction across the Holocene. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 366(1577): 2564-2576. [Supplementary Information]

Upham, N. S., Esselstyn, J. A. & Jetz, W. Inferring the mammal tree: Species-level sets of phylogenies for questions in ecology, evolution, and conservation. PLOS Biol. 17, e3000494 (2019).

van der Geer, A. A. E., Anastasakis, G. and Lyras, G. A. (2014). If hippopotamuses cannot swim, how did they colonize islands: a reply to Mazza. Lethaia. doi: 10.1111/let.12095 [Abstract]

Weston, Eleanor M. and Lister, Adrian M. (2009). Insular dwarfism in hippos and a model for brain size reduction in Homo floresiensis. Nature 459: 85-88.


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