Friday, January 6, 2012

The Hyrax

Though the hyrax may seem to resemble a rodent or guinea pig, it is actually more closely related to elephants.
Yellow-spotted rock hyrax
Hyraxes can trace their history back some 37 million years, and in prehistoric times were dominant animals in Africa. The largest of these ancient animals were nearly the size of horses, but over time began to be pushed out of their ecological niche by more advanced animals such as antelope. Today there are four living species of hyrax, most of which are between 1-2 feet long, weighing 5-11lbs.

Western tree hyrax
Hyraxes are herbivores that feed on a variety of grasses, shrubs, fruits, and berries. Unlike more highly-evolved mammals, hyraxes have poor thermoregulation abilities, meaning they are unable to completely regulate their body temperatures. Like reptiles, hyraxes must bask in the sun upon emerging in the morning to warm up before becoming active.
Rock hyrax basking in the sun
Hyraxes live in herds of up to 80 individuals and must defend themselves against a large variety of African predators such as leopards, eagles, and cobras. Despite these dangers, hyraxes are not considered endangered, and are numerous enough to be considered pests in some areas due to their noisy nature.

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