YOU SAY IT'S RELATED TO THE ELEPHANT?
This week we’re going to talk about an unusual mammal. Why is it so unusual? Well, let’s first take a look at its picture.
Meet the Rock Hyrax!
Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikimedia Commons
He’s a fat, stout little fellow and he looks somewhat similar to a guinea pig. That’s where the similarity ends. The Rock Hyrax is actually more closely related to the elephant, which is really weird, and the manatee, which is stranger yet! Both the elephant and manatee are distant ancestors to our friend the Rock Hyrax. The similar physical characteristics these three animals share are teeth, leg and foot bones. Does a manatee have feet? I’m going to have to check that out. J The Rock Hyrax actually has small, teeny, weeny, tusks!
Photo: Ltshears, via Wikimedia Commons.
The way scientists characterize species of animals, and the order they put them in always surprises me. Hyrax toes have been described as ‘hoof-like’ and that description, as well as the tusks, helps me to understand the connection with elephants, but the manatee? I don’t get it. As a matter of fact, Hyraxes are so unusual that scientists have placed them in their own scientific order.
Rock Hyraxes are also known as rock rabbits. There is even a species of Rock Hyrax known as a Tree Hyrax, which, as its name implies, spends a lot of time in trees.
Photo Credit: Yael & Amihay
This little omnivore is found in Africa. They will eat just about anything they find near their colonies. Dinner may include, eggs, insects and even an occasional lizard. Their home range includes dry savannah to dense rainforest and highlands, and even moorlands. The Rock Hyrax, not surprisingly, does not dig burrows, but prefers to live in rock crevices. They are very social mammals and can be found in colonies of fifty or more.
Photo Credit: Ariadne van Zandbergen (Augrabies Falls Nat’l Park, S. Africa
Hyraxes communicate with each other via vocalizations that include chirping, growls, squeals and screeches. “The raucous nocturnal shriek of the tree hyrax is most impressive, starting as a squeak or whistle, then rising to a pig-like squeal and finally to a child's scream.” (http://www.outtoafrica.nl/animals/enghyrax.html)
They can grow to a height of twelve inches at the shoulder and can weigh from five to nine pounds. The rubbery soles on their feet help them navigate their rocky and/or wet environment.
Photo Credit: https://adlayasanimals.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/hyrax-order-hyracoidea/
Luckily our friend is not endangered or threatened at this time. However, man is continually encroaching on its habitat, which is a concern.
I found a wonderful video for you this week. It’s a bit scary for a moment, but our friend the Rock Hyrax triumphs!
If you would like to read more about the Hyrax, visit the following web sites.
Citations and References:
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Jeanne E. Rogers, Award Winning Author
The Sword of Demelza and The Gift of Sunderland
Middle Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!