Procapra przewalskiiPrzewalski's gazelle

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Geographic Range

Przewalski's gazelles are endemic to China. Historically, they were distributed in central and northwest China including Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Ningxia and Shanxi. They are now confined to 7 isolated populations (Yuanzhe population, Hudong-Ketu population, Haiyan-Gangcha population, Talixuanguo population, Bird-island population, Shengge population and Qiejitan population) that are separated by geographical barriers or human activity around Qinghai Lake, a large salt lake in the province of Qinghai. (Leslie, et al., 2010; Ye, et al., 2006)

Habitat

Przewalski’s gazelles inhabit the ecotone between grassland and desert, including semiarid grassland steppes and open valley. Sandy hills serve as refuge from predators, and they often use stable or active dunes as bedding habitat. During winter, they make a short southerly migration to regions where water and vegetation are more abundant. (Li, et al., 1999a; Ye, et al., 2006)

Przewalski’s gazelles usually live from 2900 to 3700 m above sea level, and they are seldom found higher than 3700 m. The Qinghai Lake area exhibits a plateau climate, with sharp differences in daytime and nightime temperatures and high evaporation rates (4 times higher than precipitation, which is 380 mm annually). Major vegetation types include steppe and alpine meadow. Most plants throughout their geographic range are herbaceous and serve as an abundant and reliable source of forage for both wildlife and domestic animals. (Liu and Jiang, 2004)

  • Range elevation
    2900 to 3700 m
    9514.44 to 12139.11 ft

Physical Description

During summer, Przewalski's gazelles are yellowish brown with white fur on the venter and inside of the limbs. They molt to a less colorful pelage in winter, usually light brown or ivory-white. Their most prominent feature is a white patch on the rump partly bisected by a light brown line. Average body length is around 110 cm, and the tail is always less than 11 cm in length. The nasal bone is long, without lateral prongs and there are no preorbital depressions. Przewalski's gazelles lack distinguishable facial markings, and their tails are dark brown. Only males have horns, which are ridged and curve inwards at the tips, which touch when males are young and separate from each other with age. Horns range from 18 to 26 cm in adults. Males are heavier and darker than females. (Leslie, et al., 2010)

Przewalski's gazelles are often confused with Tibetan gazelles, Mongolian gazelles, and goitered gazelles. Most Przewalski's gazelles have a shoulder height ranging from 50 to 70 cm, mass ranging from 17 to 32 kg and are larger than Tibetan gazelles, which have a shoulder height ranging from 54 to 65 cm and mass ranging from 13 to 20 kg. In addition, Przewalski's gazelles have shorter, more curvaceous horns than Tibetan gazelles. Both species are smaller and shorter than Mongolian gazelles, and goitered gazelles, which have a combined shoulder height ranging from 60 to 84 cm and a combined mass ranging from 29 to 45 kg. Of these 4 species, Mongolian gazelles have the largest skulls and smallest horns, and goitered gazelles have the most pronounced color patterns (e.g., black stripes on their faces). (Leslie, et al., 2010)

  • Range mass
    17 to 32 kg
    37.44 to 70.48 lb
  • Average mass
    25 kg
    55.07 lb
  • Range length
    105 to 110 cm
    41.34 to 43.31 in
  • Average length
    110 cm
    43.31 in

Reproduction

Male Przewalski’s gazelles are either solitary or form small groups during the non-breeding season. They form polygynous mixed-sex groups with females during rut (i.e., breeding season), which lasts from December to early February. Male courtship and mating can be divided into 4 phases: 1) the approach, 2) courtship (e.g., standing on their hindlegs and walking toward the female, which is unique to this species), 3) copulation, and 4) mate tending. During mate tending, males guard mated females for 30 minutes after copulation. Males participate in horn-to-horn combat during rut. Some studies also observed fighting and chasing between dominant and subordinate females. At the end of breeding season, mixed-sex groups break into female groups and male groups or solitary males. Social hierarchies are more apparent during breeding season and are established according to the order in which breeding territories are established. For example, males who occupy their territories first are established as the dominant male and has increased mating opportunities. (You and Jiang, 2005)

Gestation lasts 5.5 to 6 months in Przewalski’s gazelles. Females give birth in thickets or areas of tall grass from June through July. Usually a female gives birth to only one young each year, however, twins have been documented. Newborn calves can stand and follow their mothers within several minutes after birth. Soon-there-after, mothers and their calves rejoin the larger group and form calf-cow herds. Females become sexually mature around 18 months of age. (You and Jiang, 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    Procapra przewalskii breeds once a year
  • Breeding season
    December to early February
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Range gestation period
    5.5 to 6.0 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    18 months

Little is known of parental investment in Przewalski's gazelles. However, like all mammals, mothers nurse young until weaning, and calves begin following their mother soon after parturition. Mothers likely defend young against potential threats, as females with calves spend more time scanning for predators than those without young. (You and Jiang, 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Przewalski's gazelles is unknown. However, population viability analysis suggests a maximum lifespan of 8 years. (Jiang, et al., 2001)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 years

Behavior

Przewalski's gazelles forage during dawn and dusk and avoid direct competition with domestic sheep and cows. Groups and group size are largely influenced by reproduction. Przewalski's gazelles may form mixed-sex groups during the non-breeding season when presented with a potential threat and subsequently separate when the threat subsides. Przewalski's gazelles are seldom vocal but occasionally give "a short loud bleat", and males bellow during rut. Przewalski's gazelles are extremely swift and are capable of jumping over fences 90 to 100 cm high, which pose a threat to young and pregnant females. Older males are often solitary, and males lead and guide the group. (Leslie, et al., 2010; Li, et al., 1999b)

Home Range

There is no information available regarding home range in Przewalski's gazelles.

Communication and Perception

There is no information available regarding communication in Przewalski's gazelles. They have keen sight and well-developed hearing and tend to be highly vigilant. Their sense of smell, however, is relatively poor. (Jiang, 2004)

Food Habits

Przewalski’s gazelles are strict herbivores. They have a wide ranging diet of herbaceous and shrubby vegetation but prefer the leaves of crested wheatgrass, prairie sagewort and purple feather grass. During growing season, they tend to eat the above ground tender parts of Poaceae, Cyperaceae and Asteraceae. During non-growing season, food is less available, so they are less selective and eat more of litter and dry stems of Poaceae, which compose the major part of their non-growing-season diet. Other forage items include Astragalus tanguticus, Thermopsis lanceolata, Achnatherum splendens, Koeleria cristata, Orinus kokonorica, Poa pratensis, Stipa purpursa, Blysmus sinocompressus, Carex heterotachya, C. scabrirosfris, C. stenophylla, Rumex acetosa, and Triglochin maritimum. (Li, et al., 1999b)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves

Predation

Wolves (Canis lupus) are the main predators of Przewalski's gazelles, and they pose a significant threat to young. There is little information available concerning major predators of Przewalski's gazelles. Fences confine the movement of Przewalski's gazelles and increase wolf predation rates, compared to areas without fences. Although they are extremely swift and can leap over fences from 90 to 100 cm high, young and pregnant females are especially vulnerable to predation in fenced areas. (Jiang, et al., 2001; Leslie, et al., 2010)

Ecosystem Roles

Przewalski's gazelles are herbivores and tend to move long distances throughout the day. As a result, they are important seed dispersers throughout their geographic range. During growing season, they choose only the tender parts of plants such as buds and leaves. Unlike many livestock, they do not damage plant root structures and thus do not have a significant negative impact on the grasslands in which they forage. They are also an important prey species for gray wolves. Wolf numbers have increased in recent years around Qinghai Lake. Consequently, predation pressure on Przewalski's Gazelles has increased as well. There is no information available regarding parasites specific to this species. (Li, et al., 2009)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Until recently, Przewaiski's gazelles were illegally hunted for their skin and meat. Fortunately, poaching is no longer a significant threat, as monitoring has increased and anti-poaching laws are now strongly enforced. (Jiang, et al., 2001)

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

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Przewaiski's gazelles on humans

Conservation Status

Przewalski’s gazelles are classified as "endangered" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species and are thought to be one of the most endangered ungulates in the world. Their distribution is confined to seven disjunct areas in less than 878 km^2. Recently, three additional populations were discovered, and yet population estimates range from fewer than 700 to between 1000 and 1300. Prezewaski's gazelles are classified as "critically endangered" in China and are considered a Class I species. Major threats to each population vary. However, habitat fragmentation (caused by increasing human densities and intensive construction of railways, roads and pasture fences) has resulted in small populations with significantly reduced genetic diversity. In addition, overgrazing by livestock reduces forage availability. For example, domestic sheep have a 61% dietary overlap with Przewalski's gazelles during growing season and 81% during non-growing season. Competition with sheep may force Przewalski’s gazelles to select secondary food, thereby decreasing overall dietary quality. Finally, wolf induced mortality increases in fenced areas, especially for calves and adult females. Until recently, illegal hunting for their skin and meat were a significant threat to their survival; however, increased monitoring and enforcement of anti-poaching laws have helped slow population declines. (Jiang, et al., 2000; Leslie, et al., 2010; Liu and Jiang, 2004; Zheng, 2007)

Contributors

Binbin Li (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

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

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

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

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.

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.

pheromones

chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

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).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

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.

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

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.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Jiang, Z., D. Li, Z. Wang. 2000. Population declines of Przewalski’s gazelle around Qinghai Lake, China. FFI, Oryx, 34(2): 129-135.

Jiang, Z., D. Li, Z. Wang, S. Zhu, W. Wei. 2001. Population structure of the Procapra przewalskii around the Qinghai Lake, China. Acta Zoologica Sinica, 47 (2): 158-162.

Jiang, Z. 2004. Przewalski’s Gazelle. Beijing, China: China Forestry Publishing House.

Leslie, D., C. Groves, A. Abramov. 2010. Procapra przewalskii (Artiodactyla: Bovidae). MAMMALIAN SPECIES, 42(860): 124–137. Accessed March 03, 2011 at http://www.asmjournals.org/doi/full/10.1644/860.1.

Li, D., Z. Jiang, Z. Wang. 1999. Activity patterns and habitat selection of the Przewalski’s Gazelle (Procapra przewalskii) in the Qinghai Lake region.. Acta Theriologica Sinica, 19 (1): 17-22.

Li, D., Z. Jiang, Z. Wang. 1999. Diet analysis of Procapra prezwalskii. Zoological Research, 20 (1): 74-77.

Li, Z., Z. Jiang, G. Beauchamp. 2009. Vigilance in Przewalski’s gazelle: effects of sex, predation risk and group size. Journal of zoology, 277: 302–308.

Liu, B., Z. Jiang. 2004. Dietary Overlap between Przewalski's Gazelle and Domestic Sheep in the Qinghai Lake Region and Implications for Rangeland Management. The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 68, No. 2: 241-246.

Ye, R., P. Cai, M. Peng, X. Lu, S. Ma. 2006. The investigation about distribution and population size of Przewalski’s gazelle (Procapra przewalskii) in Qinghai Province, China. Acta Theriologica Sinica, 26 (4): 373-379.

You, Z., Z. Jiang. 2005. Courtship and mating behaviors in Przewalski’s gazelle (Procapra przewalskii). Acta Zoologica Sinica, 51 (2): 187-194.

Zheng, J. 2007. Critical problems in conservation of Przewalski’s Gazelle. Chinese Journal of Wildlife, 28 (2): 31-33.