Capra ibexibex

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Geographic Range

Alpine ibex, Capra ibex, are found in central Europe south to northern Ethiopia and east to Central China. (Nowak, 1999)

Habitat

Alpine ibex are mountain animals usually living at elevations up to 3,200 meters. Males stay up on the rock cliffs during the day, whereas females stay below in the rolling slopes and brushy areas. At night they will all move down into the forest for the night to feed. (McGoldrick, 1997)

  • Range elevation
    3200 (high) m
    10498.69 (high) ft

Physical Description

Alpine ibex are sexually dimorphic. Males range from 65 – 105 cm in height at the shoulder and weigh about 80 - 100 kg. Shoulder heights in females are about 65 – 70 cm and weight varies from 30 – 50 kg. The length of an ibex is about 1.3 – 1.4 m long with a tail length about 120 – 150 cm. Their coats are uniformly brown to gray, with thick beards. The underside of southern alpine ibex is lighter than the northern alpine ibex. Nubian (Capra nubiana) and Walia ibex (Capra walie) are smaller than alpine ibex. (Brownell, 1998; Burton, 1980)

  • Range mass
    65 to 100 kg
    143.17 to 220.26 lb
  • Range length
    1.3 to 1.4 m
    4.27 to 4.59 ft

Reproduction

The mating system is polygynous. Males compete in fighting competition to mate with a group of females. (Kohlmann, et al., 1996; Nowak, 1999)

Males join the females in December after fierce battles with other males. The winner of the battle obtains the right to breed with group of 10 – 20 females. The gestation period for the ibex is approximately 147 – 180 days. A day after parturition, the young are able to walk on the rock cliffs following their mothers. The young are mature at 8 – 12 months, but don’t breed until 2 or 3 years of age. Ibex typically have one young per year, and more than one is uncommon. (Kohlmann, et al., 1996; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Alpine ibex breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Mating occurs in late fall.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
    1.11
  • Average number of offspring
    1.1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    4.9 to 6 months
  • Range weaning age
    3 to 12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 (low) months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    10 (low) months

Females provide milk for their young, as do all mammalian females. The young are precocious, and are able to follow their mothers shortly after birth. (Kohlmann, et al., 1996; Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of an alpine ibex in the wild is about 10 – 18 years. In captivity the oldest know individual was 21 years and 3 months. (Jordan, 1969)

Behavior

Females live in social hierarchies that consist of 10 – 20 females in a herd with one dominant female. Males live in smaller herds of about 6 – 8, until the fall when the males rut. During this time males become solitary and are aggressive to other males. Some males live solitary all year long. (Jordan, 1969; Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

In the spring the animals migrate back into the mountains to new feeding areas. In the winter when the snow is deep and the weather is severe they migrate down to south facing slopes which have more food and less snow. These browsers and grazers become active in the afternoon and into the evening and feed through out the night in the forest, returning to the rock cliffs in the morning.

Foods commonly eaten include: grasses, forbs, leaves, shoots and bark. (Burton, 1980; Sanderson, 1967)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems

Predation

Ibex are herding animals which are subject to a wide variety predators. Eagles, bears, leopards and humans all play significant roles in regulating the ibex population.

Ecosystem Roles

As a browser, this ibex probably influences the vegetational community, As a prey species, it is likely that the availablitliy of ibex affects the populations of predators.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In addition to trophy hunting, there was a market for the parts of ibex believed useful in medicinal purposes. (Brownell, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Ibex may compete with domestic goats (Capra hircus) for food and water. (Jordan, 1969)

Conservation Status

Alpine ibex have sustainable populations due to successful reintroduction programs. (Sanderson, 1967)

Other Comments

In the eighteenth century some Europeans believed ibex were magical. Today's equivalent of the magical ibex is the zodiac sign Capricorn. (Burton, 1980)

Contributors

John Sippl (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Palearctic

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

World Map

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.

chaparral

Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

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

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

drug

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease

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.

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

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

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

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).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

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.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

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.

solitary

lives alone

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.

viviparous

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

References

Brownell, B. 1998. National Geographic Book of Mammals. Ohio: The National Geographic Society.

Burton, M. 1980. The New Larousse Encyclopedia of Animal Life. New York: Bonaza Books.

Jordan, E. 1969. Animal Atlas of the World. New Jersey: Hammond Incorporated.

Kohlmann, S., D. Muller, P. Alkon. 1996. Antipredator constraints on Nubian Ibexes. Journal of Mammalogy, 77: 1122-1131.

McGoldrick, J. 1997. Europe's King of the Mountain: Ibex. National Geographic World, 261: 15-22.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Maryland: John Hopkins University Press.

Sanderson, I. 1967. Living Mammals of the World Edition III vol. II. New York: Doubleday and Company Inc..