Myotragus balearicus Credit: Duke University
Myotragus balearicus is distinctive among the caprinae due to the presence of several features that are uncharacteristic for the group as a whole. Included with these unique anatomic morphologies are small stature (about 20-inches tall), forward looking eyes (stereoscopic vision) and dentition lacking upper incisors. Having evolved on the Spanish islands of Majorca and Minorca, the cave goat possesses an exceptional phylogenetic history and may hold important clues in its DNA as to how evolution functions in geographically isolated regions such as islands.
A challenge to past attempts at recovering and sequencing the genome of extinct animals is that DNA readily breaks down at elevated temperatures; so animals, such as the cave goat, which lived, perished and fossilized in warm temperate climates rarely maintained genetic remnants of sufficient quantity or quality to process in the lab.
Now that high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies are being developed and brought to bear, unique phylogenetic stories can be read from long extinct animals that were biogeographically located in warmer climes.