Field of Science

The European Blackbuck

Horn cores of Gazellospira torticornis hispanica, from here.

From one -spira genus to another, somewhat different one. Gazellospira is a genus of spiral-horned gazelles known from the Pliocene and early Pleistocene of Europe and northern Asia (the reference to Miocene on the Wikipedia page for this genus looks like it might be an error). Most of the known specimens of Gazellospira have been assigned to a single species, G. torticornis, but a second species G. gromovae has been named from the lower Pleistocene of Tadzhikistan. Specimens from the Upper Pliocene of Spain have also been assigned to a distinct subspecies G. torticornis hispanica on the basis of their smaller size than G. torticornis from elsewhere (Garrido 2008).

Gazellospira is a close relative of the modern blackbuck Antilope cervicapra of southern Asia and would have resembled it in overall appearance. The most obvious difference between the two is probably the horns which diverge at a much greater angle in Gazellospira than in the blackbuck (at an eyeball estimate, the angle between the horns in Gazellospira looks to be close to 90° versus closer to 45–60° in Antilope). Like the blackbuck, Gazellospira was probably a more or less mixed feeder, alternating between browsing and grazing as the seasons required.

Gazellospira's eventual extinction was probably connected to the cooling climate of the Pleistocene (the related genus Gazella, which survives to the present in more southerly regions, disappeared from Europe at about the same time). It seems to have been gone from the greater part of Europe by the end of the Pliocene (Crégut-Bonnoure 2007), persisting into the Pleistocene as remnant populations in Iberia, Italy, Greece and central Asia.


Crégut-Bonnoure, E. 2007. Apport des Caprinae et Antilopinae (Mammalia, Bovidae) à la biostratigraphie du Pliocène terminal et du Pléistocène d’Europe. Quaternaire 18 (1): 73–97.

Garrido, G. 2008. Lu muestra más moderna y completa conocida de Gazellospira torticornis (Bovidae, Artiodactyla, Mammalia en el Plioceno superior terminal de Europa occidental (Fonelas P-1, Cuenca de Guadix, Granada). Cuadernos del Museo Geominero 10: 413–460.


  1. Is there something in particular that make small bovids less suited to colder climates than small cervids?

    1. Good question. I don't know. But are there any small deer in cold climates other than roe? All the other deer I can think of from Europe are relatively large.

    2. I was thinking of the fact that large bovids, such as aurochs and bison, remained common in Europe into historical times, and domestic cattle do well here. Compared to them, most deer are small.


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