The Atlas wild ass (Equus africanus atlanticus), also known as Algerian wild ass, is a purported extinct subspecies of the African wild ass that was once found across North Africa and parts of the Sahara. It was last represented in a villa mural ca.300 AD in Bona, Algeria, and became extinct as a result of Roman sport hunting.
Purported bones have been found in a number of rock shelters across Morocco and Algeria by paleontologists including Alfred Romer (1928, 1935) and Camille Arambourg (1931).
While the existence of several rock art depictions and Roman mosaics leave no doubt about the former existence of African wild asses in North Africa, it has been claimed that the original bones that were used to describe the subspecies atlanticusactually belonged to a fossil zebra. Therefore, the name E. a. atlanticus might not be valid to refer to the Atlas wild ass.
Based on ancient drawings, the Atlas wild ass had stripes on its legs as well as a shoulder cross. Of the living subspecies of African wild ass, the Somali wild ass has only leg stripes, and the Nubian wild ass only the shoulder stripe. One or both features appear sometimes in the domestic donkey, the domestic descendant of the African wild asses.
Range and ecology
The Atlas wild ass was found in the region around the Atlas Mountains, across modern day Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. It might also have occurred in rocky areas of the Saharan Desert, but not in sands which are avoided by wild asses.