Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 66: Nov-Dec 1989

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











The babirusa: a quasi-ruminant pig

The babirusa, an inhabitant of Indonesia, looks like a thin pig, but its stomach is like that of a sheep, which is a "simple" ruminant. The babirusa's stomach possesses an extra sac; and the animal often browses on leaves and shoots. It does not, however, chew a cud.

Indonesian babirusa, a pig-like animal with curious tusks
The Indonesian babirusa, a pig-like animal with curious tusks and an unusual digestive system (for a pig).
Taxonomists are a bit puzzled over the babirusa. They aren't sure whether its closest relatives are modern pigs, peccaries, or hippos.

The babirusa's "tusks" pose more questions about its evolution:

"The creature's oddest characteristic is the two impressive pairs of curving tusks grown by the males. One pair are simply extended lower canines, but the second are actually upper canines, the sockets of which have rotated, resulting in tusks that grow through the top of the muzzle and emerge from the middle of the animals's face. The effect is bizarre and startling. The males fight with their dagger-like lower canines and probably deflect opponents' blows with the upper set, thus protecting their eyes. Indonesians say the tusks are similar to deer antlers, giving the babirusa its name, which means 'pig deer.'"

(Rice, Ellen K.; "The Babirusa: A Most Unusual Southeast Asian Pig," Animal Kingdom, 91:46, March/April 1988.)

Comment. Turning a pair of teeth 180 in the upper jaw is a fascinating evolutionary accomplishment. It is difficultto-explain on the basis of random mutations, especially in view of the fact that many pigs, with lower tusks only, get along quite well.

Reference. For more on the peculiarities of the babirusa, refer BMA34 and BMF3 in catalog volumes: Biological Anomalies I and II, respectively. These books are described here.

From Science Frontiers #66, NOV-DEC 1989. 1989-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987