Procapra gutturosaMongolian gazelle

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Geographic Range

Until the 1950's, Procapra gutturosa was found throughout most of Mongolia and the adjacent regions of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and China. This is an area of about 1.2 million square kilometers. Now the species is found only in the eastern portion of this range, in an area of less than 400,000 square kilometers. (Leimgruber, et al., 2001)

Habitat

Procapra gutturosa live in a semi arid, cold, temperate zone. Mongolian gazelles prefer flat or undulating steppes and dry grasslands. (Jiang, et al., 2002)

The region where this species occurs features cold winters (with temperatures of -30 degrees Celcius). The growing season is short and it is dry throughout most of the year. Continuous snow cover lasts from 120 to 180 days of the year. Spring can be very windy and summers are relatively wet and hot (with temperaturs of up to 40 degrees Celcius). (Reading, et al., 1998)

The frostless summer period is 80 to 120 days. The annual rainfall is 250 to 380 mm. The gazelles live in cool temperate tall grasslands. The growing season in these areas is from early May to the end of September. The dormant season is from October until April. Snowstorms and heavy snow accumulation are common. The main natural calamities that the gazelles face are snow, snowstorms and frostbite. (Jiang, et al., 2002)

Physical Description

Adult Mongolian gazelles measure from 1 to 1.3 m from head to rump and stand about 75 cm tall at the shoulder. Males weigh around 30 kg and females about 25 kg. Fawns weigh 2.8 to 3.0 kg when they are born and measure 51 to 56 cm from head to rump. The summer coat is orange-buff, the flanks are pinkish-cinnamon, and the belly is white with a long haired dewlap. The winter coat is paler. During the rut, the males have swollen throats. Only males have horns, and these range in length from 225 to 355 mm. (Gao, et al., 1998)

  • Range mass
    25 to 30 kg
    55.07 to 66.08 lb
  • Range length
    1.3 to 1 m
    4.27 to 3.28 ft

Reproduction

Mongolian gazelles are polygynous with one male gathering about 13 females. Rutting occurs in mid-November to early February. During the rut, males battle with each other though the fighting is not serious. (Leimgruber, et al., 2001)

Mating occurs during the rut, from mid-November through February. The birthing season follows in mid-June to mid-July, indicating a gestation period of about 7 months. Fawns are born singly, with twins occuring rarely (2.5 to 8.2%). The pregnancy rate of females older than 1.5 years is between 90% and 100%. The birthing season is quite variable and depends on the climatic conditions during the previous year. (Leimgruber, et al., 2001)

During the two weeks of calving, females herd up to a density of 40,000 females per 35 square kilometers. Ninety percent of the females in a herd will give birth within a 4 day period. This birth synchrony is a strategy the species has developed to combat the short growing season and the effectiveness of predators. Females must have their young at about the same time to allow the young to reach a minimum body size by the onset of winter. Birth synchrony is also a strategy called predator swamping. If all the females have their young at one time, there will be so many that some will be able to avoid predation. (Leimgruber, et al., 2001)

Females reach sexual maturity at 1.5 years old, whereas males mature sexually at about 2.5 years old. (Leimgruber, et al., 2001)

  • Breeding interval
    These animals breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Rutting occurs from mid-November to early February. Birthing occurs in mid-June to mid July.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average number of offspring
    1.3
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    7 months
  • Average gestation period
    185 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1.5 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    532 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2.5 years

As in many mammalian species, parental care seems to be primarily a female affair. Females provide milk, grooming, and protection to their fawns. Fawns stay with their mothers in the herd for about one year and stay with the herd until they have reached sexual maturity. (Gao, et al., 1998)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents

Lifespan/Longevity

Male Mongolian gazelles live about 7.5 years and females live 9.5 years, which is considerably less than other related ungulates. The shortened longevity of this species is partly because of quick tooth wearing. (Gao, et al., 1998)

The survival rate of fawns in their first summer is 80%. Because of the high rate of pregnancy and of fawn survival, the rate of increase of the populations sometimes reaches 20 to 25%. (Gao, et al., 1998)

Predation, periodic epidemics, and severe winters are the main causes of death for members of this species. Mongolian gazelles suffer from "foot and mouth disease" and Pasteurellosis, as well as unknown diseases. Heavy snows and food shortages in the winter sometimes cause losses of one third to half of a Mongolian gazelle population. (Gao, et al., 1998)

Behavior

Mongolian gazelles seem to be the Asian ecological equivalent of the pronghorn antelope in North America. They are both well adapted to dry grassland ecosystems. They can run very fast. Mongolian gazelles are able to reach speeds of 60 to 65 km/hr. They can also jump as high as 2 m and as far as 4 to 6 m. They have keen eyesight but relatively poor senses of smell and hearing. (Gao, et al., 1998)

Mongolian gazelles live in groups all year round, group size is larger during the winter than in the summer. In summer, groups usually number about 20 to 30 individuals. Winter groups increase to several hundred. Mongolian gazelles are always on the move, mostly due to food shortages. Only females stop briefly during calving season. They usually travel in herds of 35,000 to 80,000 individuals. During their migration they follow green pastures, especially during crucial parts of their life cycle such as birthing and wintering. During these times, they congregate in areas of high relative plant productivity. (Leimgruber, et al., 2001)

Home Range

These animals don't really have a home range, as they continuously move throughout their range in search of food.

Communication and Perception

No information is available on the communication of Mongolian gazelles. However, generalizations can be made, because they are diurnal mammals. They are likely to communicate with visual signals and body postures. Vocalizations are probably present. Scent cues may be important in mating and between mother an offspring. Undoubtedly, tactile communication is also important in such interactions.

Food Habits

Mongolian gazelles are small ruminants, but they are classified as intermediate feeders. Intermediate feeders are ruminants that are morphophysiologically intermediate between grazers and browsers. This classification is arrived at based on the ratio of the weight of ruminoreticular contents to body weight and the length of the total intestine relative to body length, as well as the ratio of the length of the small to the large intestine. (Takatsuki, et al., 2002)

Mongolian gazelles have apparently adopted a digestive strategy similar to that of browsers, possibly because of their small body size. This allows them to adapt more easily to the environmental factors. They can regulate their digestive system in response to seasonal changes in food quality. (Jiang, et al., 2002)

During autumn and winter they have the ability to digest fibrous foods more efficiently than other seasons. During the dormancy months, their digestive system holds more, and holds it for a longer time, allowing them to digest food more completely. This helps the gazelles to compensate for poor food quality and low food availability. (Jiang, et al., 2002)

During dormancy, the grasses they feed upon are lower in levels of protein than ungulates typically require. But during this time of year, the gazelles must still subsist on grasses and other lower quality foods. They prefer higher quality foods when they are available. In spring they eat Artemisia spp., peashrubs, onions and legumes. During the summer onions comprise 80% of the diet. Lightly grazed areas have more nutritional forbs than do moderately or heavily grazed areas, however, lightly grazed areas are usually around towns and villages and not readily utilized.

Mongolian gazelles also have abundant microorganisms that help them to recycle nitrogen for protein synthesis, and to supplement the nitrogen shortage of food during autumn and winter. (Jiang, et al., 2002)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Predation

The main predators of Mongolian gazelles are wolves (Canis lupus), domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), and steppe eagles. Manul (Felis manul), red fox (Vulpe vulpes), kites, and vultures also prey on newborn fawns. Wolves attack the gazelles during late winter and spring, particularly after rut when males are exhausted and unable to run for long periods. In early summer, wolves attack pregnant females. (Gao, et al., 1998)

The main defenses these animals have against predation seem to be related to predator swamping. Females give birth to their young in synchrony each spring, apparently allowing more of the young to survive. Also, Mongolian gazelles herd together in especially large groups at the time of calving. (Gao, et al., 1998; Leimgruber, et al., 2001)

Ecosystem Roles

No information is available on the ecosystem roles provided by Mongolian gazelles. They provide food for a variety of animals and given the large numbers in which they travel, are likely to have an impact on plant communities where they graze.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Mongolian gazelles are an important souce of food for manylocal peoples, and are heavily hunted, both legally and illegally. (Gao, et al., 1998)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Mongolian gazelles on humans. However, they carry foot and mouth disease, which could potentially be transmitted to domestic animals. (Gao, et al., 1998)

Conservation Status

Mongolian gazelles used to be the most numerous wild ungulate of the grassland region of China. They were a significant component of the grassland ecosystem. The population has decreased dramatically and now faces extirpation in China. In the 1940s, the population was about 1,500,000. Today it is just 300,000 to 500,000. This is a result of grassland degradation (total grass production has dropped by 30%) due to human expansion, agricultural development, and overgrazing since the 1960s. (Gao, et al., 1998)

The decline in Mongolian gazelle populations can also be attributed to over-hunting and desertification. Poaching is a problem for this species, with poachers shooting more rutting males and more pregnant and lactating females after the legal hunting period, because they are easier to shoot. The reduction of pregnant females results in decreased fecundity and the reduction of reproductive males results in unhealthy sex ratios. (Gao, et al., 1998)

In 1989, the Chinese government listed Mongolian gazelles under its wildlife protection law as a Class II species for conservation. Under this law, nature reserves are supposed to be established, and inspection of habitat condition is to be made regularly. Construction projects which degrade the habitat, and trading of the gazelles and their parts, are to be controlled. Hunting is prohibited, and poaching can be prosecuted under criminal law. (Gao, et al., 1998)

In Mongolia, hunting has been controlled since 1932 and in 1995 a new hunting law was introduced to help reduce poaching. (Gao, et al., 1998)

In the Russian Federation's "Red Data Book", the Mongolian gazelle is listed as a 'disappearing species.' (Gao, et al., 1998)

Because the species migrates between China and Mongolia, any conservation program requires cooperation and coordination between these countries. It is recommended that the open season for hunting Mongolian gazelles be limited to the time of greatest meat quality, and hunting intensity be limited to 19% of the total population. Because of the high reproductive capacity of the species, populations would be able to recover quite quickly despite continued hunting, providing that poaching is controlled. (Gao, et al., 1998)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists the Mongolian gazelle as a lower risk species that is near threatened. They list the species major threats as human induced habitat loss and degradation and harvesting. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2002)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Jill Wick (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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.

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

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).

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

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.

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

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.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

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

References

IUCN. 2002. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line ). Accessed 12/04/02 at http://www.redlist.org/.

Gao, Z., Z. Jiang, S. Takatsuki, J. Kuh. 1998. The present status, ecology and conservation of the Mongolian gazelle, Procapra gutturosa: a review. Mammal Study, 23(1): 63-78.

Jiang, Z., S. Takatsuki, J. Li, W. Wang, J. Ma. 2002. Seasonal variations in food and digestion of Mongolian gazelles in China. Journal of Wildlife Management, 66(1): 40-47.

Leimgruber, P., W. McShea, C. Brookes, B. Lhamsuren, C. Wemmer. 2001. Spatial patterns in relative primary productivity and gazelle migration in the Eastern Steppes of Mongolia. Biological Conservation, 102(2): 205-212.

Reading, R., S. Amgalanbaatar, L. Lhagvasuren. 1998. Biological assesment of Three Beauties of the Gobi National Conservation Park, Mongolia. Biodiversity and Conservation, 8(8): 1115-1137.

Takatsuki, S., Z. Jiang, J. Li, W. Wang, J. Ma. 2002. Feeding type and seasonal digestive strategy of Mongolian gazelles in China. Journal of Mammology, 83(1): 91-98.