New Genus of Deer Discovered at Badlands National Park

A collaborative team from Badlands National Park, the American Museum of Natural History, and California State Polytechnic University has unveiled the fossil remains of a new genus of miniature, hornless deer, thriving in South Dakota approximately 32 million years ago during the Oligocene Epoch.

The study, led by Mattison Shreero and Ed Welsh from Badlands National Park, was recently published in the Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science.

Dubbed Santuccimeryx (“Santucci’s ruminant”), the new deer pays homage to Vincent L. Santucci, Senior Paleontologist at the National Park Service’s Geologic Resources Division, recognizing his dedication to the paleontology program at Badlands National Park.

Santuccimeryx, a member of the extinct family Leptomerycidae, possesses a skull that displays traits from both the Oligocene genus Leptomeryx and the Miocene genus Pseudoparablastomeryx, bridging a gap of nearly 10 million years. Leptomerycids, approximately the size of house cats, once roamed North America from the late-middle Eocene to the middle Miocene. They are closely related to the living chevrotains, or mouse deer, found in the tropical forests of Africa and Asia.

Shreero explained that the newly uncovered Santuccimeryx exhibits teeth akin to Leptomeryx and a skull more reminiscent of Pseudoparablastomeryx. Unable to fit it neatly into either existing genus, Shreero and Welsh concluded it merited classification as a new genus of its own.

The sole known skull of Santuccimeryx, which catalyzed this research, was unearthed at Badlands in 2016, thanks to a Visitor Site Report filed by Geoscientists-in-the-Parks intern Tiffany Leone.

For Shreero, the research serves as a testament to the importance of STEM education, particularly for women and girls. She champions persistence and determination, relaying her own journey from aspiring geologist and paleontologist to a successful researcher.

Encouraging young girls to pursue their passions in STEM, Shreero aims to inspire future generations of scientists by sharing her own experiences and successes.

For more information on Badlands National Park, visit their website.

Disclaimer: This above news story is based on a press release from the National Park Service, which was issued on May 9, 2024. You can read the original release here.

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Feature image: nps.gov

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