Equus quaggaquagga

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Geographic Range

A native of southern Africa, the quagga used to occur in vast herds in the Karoo regions of Cape Province and the southern part of Orange Free State. It is now extinct. (South Africa's Threatened Wildlife, 1993)

Habitat

Quaggas were often found in arid to temperate grasslands, and sometimes wetter pastures.

Physical Description

The quagga (Equus quagga) is recently extinct. It was closely related to horses and zebras. These zebras averaged 53 inches in height and weighed between 500 and 700 pounds. The Quagga was a relative of the Burchell's Zebra, Equus burchelli, and differed mainly in the degree of striping. The Burchell's Zebra has black stripes on a white background, with brownish "shadow" stripes in between. There is much variability in this pattern, and some Burchell's Zebras have virtually unstriped hindquarters. Museum specimens of the Quagga have dark stripes on the head and neck, but further back the stripes become paler and the interspaces darker, until they merge into a plain brownish color. It is also interesting to note that zebra stripes are like human fingerprints -- no two zebras have the same stripe pattern, which makes it easy to identify individuals. (Planet Wildlife, 1993)

  • Range mass
    250 to 300 kg
    550.66 to 660.79 lb

Reproduction

Quaggas were polygynous animals, meaning that there was mature male for each group,or "harem," of females. To become a harem stallion, a male had to abduct fillies in heat one at a time from their father's herds. Fillies began ovulating and advertising estrus by adopting a distinctive posture between one and two years of age. Many stallions gathered around a herd that included an estrus filly and fought for her with the herd stallion, and with each other. This occurred 5 days every month for about a year until the filly finally conceived. Though foals may be born in any month, there was a definite annual birth/mating peak early in December to January, which corresponds to the rain season in East Africa. Mares that were in good condition reproduced at 2-year intervals, having their first foal at 3 to 3.5 years. (Skeleton, 1992)

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Quaggas lived in large herds that almost always contained life-long family members. When members of the herd became separated, the family stallion located the stray using a unique call that was taken up by the rest of the herd. Should any member be sick or crippled, the whole herd protected it by adjusting its pace to accommodate the slowest member. These families had home ranges as small as 11 mi square (30 km square) in the best habitat, but they could extend it to over 232 mi square (600 km square) in migratory populations. (Skeleton, 1992) Quaggas were a somewhat diurnal species. At night they preferred to be on short pastures relatively safe from ambush. Though they grazed individually an hour or so at a time at night, they moved about very little. While the herd slept, at least one herd member remained standing and alert. At daybreak in warm weather, herds began filing to pastures of longer grass and could cover over 10 mi (17 km) before settling for another night.

The mass movements of herds occurred between pastures and sleeping grounds, stopping for water at midday. (Hannover Zoo Animals, 1991)

For quaggas, like in all zebras, there was always a daily ritual in hygiene. Individuals stood side by side nibbling on one another's hard to reach areas such as the neck, mane, and back, to rid each other of parasites. Often the oxbird could be seen riding on the animals' backs, providing the same service. (Hannover Zoo Animals, 1991)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The quagga was a successful grazer though they often competed with the more numerous wildebeest which frequently occurred in the same areas. Quaggas were often the first of the grazers to enter tall grass vegetation or possibly wet pastures. (Skeleton, 1992)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Quagga was hunted to extinction by hunters and European settlers, who used their skins for grain bags, and prized them for their colors and patterns.

Conservation Status

The last Quagga died in the Amsterdam Zoo in Holland on 12 August 1883. The last wild Quagga in South Africa was probably killed by hunters few years before that, perhaps in 1878. (S. Africas Threatened Wildlife, 1993) Though the South African Red Data Book refers to the Quagga as an extinct species, recent evidence has confirmed that it was actually a subspecies of the Burchell's Zebra. The South African Museum in Cape Town has now embarked on a project to selectively breed Burchell's Zebras with minimal striping on their hindquarters, until the same color pattern as the Quagga can be perhaps be re-created.

Contributors

Debra L. Rodriguez (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

South Africa's Threatened Wildlife, 1993. http://www.infoweb.co.za/enviro/etbook/page2.htm

Planet Wildlife, 1993. http://www.planetpets.simplenet.com/plntzbra.htm

Spook Skeleton's "The Safari Companion" by Richard Estes, 1992. http://users.exis.net/spook.zebratxt.html

Hannover Zoo Animals, 1991. http://www2.zoo-hannover.de/zoo/animals/zebra.html