Dendrohyrax dorsaliswestern tree hyrax

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Geographic Range

The tree hyrax inhabits mainly forest areas forming a band across mid-Africa extending from the eastern to the western coast.

Habitat

Tree hyraxes inhabit various regions ranging from wooded areas and savannas to coastal dunes and tropical rainforests.

Physical Description

This rodent-looking mammal has short ears and legs, thick, soft fur with gray-brown to black colorings. The hyrax has a distinct patch of lighter colored hair on its back which covers a scent gland and bristles when the animal is excited or mating. Typically the tree hyrax is about 1-2.5 feet in length, has a height at the shoulders of 10-12 inches.

  • Range mass
    1 to 5 kg
    2.20 to 11.01 lb

Reproduction

The tree hyrax has an unusually long gestation period for its size; ranging from 6.5 to 7.5 months. Sexual maturity is reached around 16 months of age. Litter sizes of 1-2 are common, unlike the larger litters of other hyraxes. The young are born fully furred and rather large. By the age of one day they are competent climbers. There is little data on the mating systems of these animals due to their nocturnal lifestyle, however it is believed that within the small groups there is one dominant male and the rest of the males form bachelor herds.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

These mammals are nocturnal and usually live a solitary life. There are some exceptions where they live in small family groups. Vocalization is a very important method for transferring information in these animals. They are known for their very loud and piercing contact calls that are generally made after dark when the hyrax is leaving to forage.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Unlike the other species of hyrax, the tree hyrax is a nocturnal forager. It is mainly herbivorous, feeding on leaves, fruits, bark, twigs, and grasses as well as an occasional insect.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The soft furs of the eastern tree hyrax are sold for a high price value in many regions.

Conservation Status

The status of the tree hyrax is said to be rare. Although not endangered, they are thought to be threatened due to habitat destruction.

Other Comments

Despite their rodent-like appearance the hyrax have been placed in their own group due to their unique characteristics. However, their closest relatives are believed to be Proboscidea (elephants). Both have developed a pair of upper incisors that are used as defensive tusks. Secondly the hyrax had flat nails on their feet that resemble the hoofs of elephants. According to amino acid sampling, these two groups are closely related as well.

Contributors

Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Gretchen Yurk (author), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Ethiopian

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

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

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.

forest

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

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.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

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.

References

Gaylard, A., G. Kerley. 1997. Diet of Tree Hyraxes Dendrohyrax arboreus (Hyracoidea:Procaviidae) In the Eastern cape, South Africa. Journal of Mammalogy: 213-219.

Mailoiy, G., R. Eley. 1992. The Hyrax. Nairobi: Regal Press.

Sentman, E. 1992. Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc..

Wildlife Fact File, 1997. Tree Hyrax card 139.