Apart from basic characteristics, antelopes differ from each other in appearance and physiology almost as much as they differ from other members of the cattle, goat, and sheep family. For example, the Common eland towers over most breeds of domestic cattle and can be 300 times heavier than the tiny Royal antelope.
All antelopes have long, slender legs and powerful muscles where the upper legs meet the body, providing leverage and increasing leg stride and speed. Though antelopes are good jumpers, they are not particularly good climbers. A few do display good balance, such as the klipspringer, which stands on the tips of its hooves. The gerenuk, another African species, is one of the few antelopes that habitually stands on its back legs.
Antelopes bear a dense coat with short fur. Most antelopes have fawn or brown-colored fur so they can camouflage themselves while eating. There are some exceptions, including the rare zebra duiker which has dark vertical stripes, and the gemsbok which has gray and black fur and a vivid black-and-white face. A common feature of the gazelle is a white rump, which flashes a warning to others when it runs from danger. One species of gazelle, the springbok, also has a pouch of white brushlike hairs running along its back. When a springbok senses danger, its pouch opens up, and the hairs stand on end.
Antelopes are ruminants. Like other ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, they have well-developed cheek teeth or molars, which grind cud into a pulp. They have no upper incisors; in order to tear grass stems and leaves, their lower incisors press against a hard upper gum pad when they bite.
Antelopes rely on their keen senses to avoid predators. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads, and their pupils are elongated horizontally, giving them a broad view of danger from both the back and front. Their senses of smell and hearing are also acute, giving them the ability to perceive danger while out in the open where predators often prowl after dark.
Both sexes of most antelope species grow horns, though the males' horns are generally larger. The dik-dik and klipspringer, two species where the male mates with only one female, have horns that are little more than spikes. However, in species where males compete to mate with several females, horns may grow as long as 1.5 m (5 ft.). Despite their large size, antelope horns are hollow and lightweight. Antelope horns are almost always slightly curved, although in some species such as the blackbuck, they are shaped like a pair of corkscrews spiraling out in opposite directions.
Males Are Larger:
In many species, the males are larger than the females. In several species, such as the Asian blackbuck, males and females also differ in color.
Antelope life spans are hard to determine, and most known figures relate only to those in captivity. Captive gnus have lived to be over 20 years old, and captive impalas have lived into their late teens. In the wild, antelopes rarely live to their teens, as they are often preyed upon.
Unlike carnivores and primates, herbivores such as the antelope are not noted for high intelligence. Since their food cannot run, antelopes do not have to be quick-thinking. However, they can be very clever in escaping from their enemies.
Antelopes are fast runners, although they are not the fastest animals in the world. They are good at quick, precise turns, and they can run very fast for extended periods of time. This gives them an advantage over many predators such as the cheetah, which relies on sprinting and can be tired out by the antelope's greater stamina.
The antelope's choice to flee is based largely on the type of predator and its distance from the herd. Usually, gazelles will permit lions to come within 200 m (650 ft.) before fleeing. They likely recognize that a hunting lion prefers to hide while stalking its prey, meaning a visible lion is unlikely to attack. Cheetahs, who are superb sprinters, pose a more dangerous threat. Gazelles will flee from cheetahs when they are over 800 m (0.5 mi.) away.
Antelopes communicate with each other using a varied array of sounds. For example, dik-diks whistle when alarmed, warning other animals of danger as well. This characteristic makes dik-diks less favorable prey for hunters. Generally, though, sight is a much more common form of communication than sound among antelopes. An antelope's mood is indicated by its posture and movement. When excited or alarmed, most medium-sized species of antelope bounce up and down on all four legs, keeping them stretched out straight. This behavior, known as pronking or stotting, acts as an alarming display. Some biologists theorize that stotting also sends a message to predators, showing that individual antelopes are fit and alert, and therefore not worth pursuing.
Antelopes also use scent signals to communicate; these signals can linger for many days. Antelopes that live in herds have special glands in their hooves that leave a scented record of their movement. If an antelope were accidentally separated from its herd, it would be able to follow the scent tracks back.
Antelope species common to forests tend to stay in the same place all their lives, but species that live out in the open often migrate to feed and breed. The gnus carry out the most famous of these migrations through the plains and open woodlands of eastern and southern Africa. Gnus are sedentary in some places, but in others, such as Serengeti National Park, gnus travel between two different home ranges. One of these ranges is used during the dry season, while another is used during the wet season. Migration can be very risky; the dangers include crossing crocodile-infested rivers, but migration also supplies the gnus with food at different times of the year.
There are about 90 species of antelope in about 30 genera, of which about 15 species are endangered. These include:
* common eland
* Grey Rhebok
* roan antelope
* royal antelope
* sable antelope
* tibetan antelope
Imports: Blackbuck antelope have been imported into the United States, primarily for the purpose of "exotic game hunts," common and popular in Texas. There are no true antelope native to the Americas. The pronghorn antelope of the Great Plains belongs to the family Antilocapridae. The Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa), sometimes classified as an antelope, can run with a speed of 80 km/h (50 mph). Suni are small antelope that live in south-eastern Africa. They stand between 12-17 inches high at the shoulder and are very similar to the dik-dik in size, shape and color, but have many smaller differences.
Antelope are not a cladistic group in and of themselves, but rather are considered a miscellaneous group. The term is used loosely to describe all members of the family Bovidae who do not fall under the category of sheep, cattle or goats. Native antelope can be found in Asia, India, and Africa.
The baboons are some of the largest non-hominid members of the primate order; only the mandrill and the drill are larger. In modern scientific use, only members of the genus Papio are called baboons, but previously the closely related Gelada (genus Theropithecus) and two species of mandrill and drill (genus Mandrillus) were grouped in the same genus, and these monkeys are still often referred to as baboons in everyday speech. The word "baboon" comes from "babouin", the name given to them by the French naturalist Buffon.
All baboons have long dog-like muzzles, close-set eyes, heavy powerful jaws, thick fur except on their muzzle, a short tail and rough spots on their rear-ends, called ischial callosities. These callouses are nerveless, hairless pads of skin which provide for the sitting comfort of the baboon. Males of the Hamadryas baboon species also have a large white mane.
There is considerable variation in size and weight depending on species, the Chacma baboon can be 120 cm (47 inches) and weigh 40 kg (90 lb) while the biggest Guinea baboon is 50 cm (20 inches) and weighs only 14 kg (30 lb).
In all baboon species there is pronounced sexual dimorphism (the systematic difference in form between individuals of different sex in the same species), usually in size but also sometimes in color or canine development.
Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in savanna, open woodland and hills across Africa. Their diet is omnivorous, but is usually vegetarian. They are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They can raid human dwellings and in South Africa they have been known to prey on sheep and goats.
Man and leopard :
Their principal predators are man and the leopard, although they are tough prey for a leopard and large males will often confront them.
Baboons in captivity have been known to live up to 45 years, while in the wild their life expectancy is about 30 years.
Most baboons live in hierarchical troops of 5 to 250 animals (50 or so is common), depending on specific circumstances, especially species and time of year. The structure within the troop varies considerably between Hamadryas baboons and the remaining species, sometimes collectively referred to as savannah baboons.
The Hamadryas baboon has very large groups comprised of many smaller harems (one male with four or so females), to which females from elsewhere in the troop are recruited while still too young to breed. The other baboon species have a more promiscuous structure with a strict dominance hierarchy based on the female matriline. The Hamadryas baboon group will typically include a younger male, but he will not attempt to mate with the females unless the older male is removed.
Baboons can determine from vocal exchanges what the dominance relations between individuals are. When a confrontation occurs between different families or where a lower-ranking baboon takes the offensive, baboons show more interest in the exchange than exchanges between members of the same family or when a higher-ranking baboon takes the offensive. This is because confrontations between different fam
Both camel species are native to the dry and desert areas of Asia and northern Africa. The term camel is also used more broadly, to describe any of the six camel-like creatures in the family Camelidae: the two true camels, and the four South American camelids: Llama, Alpaca, Guanaco and Vicuña.
One Hump, Please:
The Dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) is a large even-toed ungulate native to northern Africa and western Asia, and is the best-known member of the camel family. The Dromedary has one hump on its back, in contrast to the Bactrian camel which has two. The Dromedary is sometimes called an Arabian camel. Some maintain that the name "dromedary" should be used to refer only to racing camels. The average life expectancy of a camel is 30 to 50 years.
Thick Eyelashes and Small Ears:
Male Dromedaries camels have a soft palate, which they inflate to produce a deep pink sack that out of the sides of their mouths during the mating season. Dromedaries are also noted for their thick eyelashes and small, hairy ears. Adults grow to a length of 10 feet and height of six to seven feet. Weight is usually in the range of 1000-1500 pounds.
Two Humps, Please:
The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of eastern Asia. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the Dromedary which has one. Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian camels alive today are domesticated, but in October 2002 the estimated 950 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were placed on the critically endangered species list.
Just the Facts:
Bactrian camels are over 2 meters (7 feet) tall at the hump and weigh in excess of 725 kg (1,600 pounds). They are herbivores, eating grass, leaves, and grains, capable of drinking up to 120 liters (32 US gallons) of water at a time. Their mouth is extremely tough, allowing them to eat thorny desert plants. They are supremely adapted to protect themselves against the desert heat and sand; with wide, padded feet and thick leathery pads on the knees and chest, nostrils that can open and close, ears lined with protective hairs, and bushy eyebrows with two rows of long eyelashes. Thick fur and underwool keep the animal warm during cold desert nights and also insulate against daytime heat.
Compared to the Dromedary camel, the Bactrian is a stockier, hardier animal being able to survive the scorching desert heat of northern Iran to the frozen winters in Tibet. The Dromedary is taller and faster, and with a rider it can maintain 8-9 mph for hours at a time. By comparison a loaded Bactrian camel moves at about 2.5 mph
Of Camels and Men:
Around the second millennium BC, camels became established to the Sahara region but disappeared again from the Sahara beginning around 900 BC. The Persian invasion of Egypt under Cambyses introduced domesticated camels to the area.
Domesticated camels were used through much of North Africa, and the Romans maintained a corps of camel warriors to patrol the edge of the desert. The Persian camels, however, were not particularly suited to trading or travel over the Sahara; rare journeys made across the desert were made on horse-drawn chariots.
The stronger and more durable Bactrian Camels first began to arrive in Africa in the fourth century. It was not until the Islamic conquest of North Africa, however, that these camels became common. While the invasion was accomplished largely on horseback, the new links to the Middle East allowed camels to be imported en masse.
Police on Camels? These camels were well-suited to long desert journeys and could carry a great deal of cargo. For the first time this allowed substantial trade over the Sahara. Modern domesticated dromedaries are used for milk and meat and as beasts of burden for cargo and passengers. Unlike horses, they kneel for the loading of passengers and cargo. At many of the desert located tourist sites in Egypt, mounted police on camels can be seen.
Gestation in the dromedary lasts around 12 months. Usually a single calf is born, and nursed for up to 18 months. Females are sexually mature after 3 to 4 years, males after 5 to 6 years. Lifespan in captivity is typically about 25 years, with some animals reaching the age of 50.
Pass the camel's milk and sugar, please.
Camel's milk is more nutritious than cow's milk. Their milk is lower in fat and lactose, and higher in iron, potassium and Vitamin C. The milk is drunk fresh as a warm and frothy liquid and in contrast to cow's milk tastes both heavy and sweet. In Arab countries, camels are reared for their milk.