Potamochoerus larvatusbushpig

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Geographic Range

Potamochoerus larvatus, or bushpig, ranges from Somalia to eastern and southern former Zaire and southwards to Cape Province and Natal in South Africa. They were probably introduced onto Madagascar, Comoro and Mayotte Islands. There are currently three provisional subspecies; P. l. hassama, P. l. somaliensis, and P. l. koiropotamus. The principle systematic division within the subspecies is between the white-faced animals of eastern Africa and the remaining populations of both southern Africa and Madagascar. (Kingdon, 1997; Lloyd and Millar, 1983; Smithers, 1983; Thomas and Kolbe, 1942; Vercammen, et al., 1993)

The range of this species has changed, and there is insufficient data on its former distribution. Recently, expansion of the Sahel zone has led to a reduction in cover and the availability of open water in northeastern Africa, resulting in a contraction in the range of P. larvatus in that region. Nonetheless, P. larvatus seems to have maintained its presence over the majority of its former range, and recent, localized expansion in its range has been reported in some areas. (Kingdon, 1997; Lloyd and Millar, 1983; Smithers, 1983; Thomas and Kolbe, 1942; Vercammen, et al., 1993)

Habitat

Bushpigs inhabit a wide range of habitats from sea-level to montane forest (up to 4,000 m on Mt. Kilimanjaro), to gallery forest, flooded forest, swampland, woodland, and mixed scrub and cultivated areas. Bushpigs can adapt to human influenced habitats as well because they eat agricultural food crops. (Kingdon, 1997; Smithers, 1983; Thomas and Kolbe, 1942)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 4000 m
    0.00 to 13123.36 ft

Physical Description

The coat of the Potamochoerus larvatus is shaggy and varies from light reddish brown to gray-brown to almost black in color. Bushpigs, however, are usually black with the head region usually a different shade than the rest of the body. The long, erectile bristly hairs along the spine form a mane that starts between the ears and extends to the rear. The ears have moderate tassels at their tips though not nearly as long as in their close relative, red river hogs (Potamochoerus porcus). Body color is variable between ages, individuals, sexes and populations. The young are born with temporary brown and yellow stripes, which fade away over several months. The tail is long and has a tuft of coarse hair at the tip. The animals appear stout because the body is round and the legs are relatively short. Males have a bony ridge and warts on the snout. The tusks or canines are directed upward and outward. Upper tusks are small and barely visible. Lower tusks are prominent and quite sharp, growing up to 7 cm long. These animals can weigh 54 to 115 kilograms. They are usually between 100 and 150 centimeters long. (Kingdon, 1997; Maberly, 1967; Nowak, 1991; Smithers, 1983)

  • Range mass
    54 to 115 kg
    118.94 to 253.30 lb
  • Range length
    100 to 150 cm
    39.37 to 59.06 in

Reproduction

Potamochoerus larvatus have a polygynous mating system wherein male bushpigs exlude other males from access to a group of females. Males compete for access to females by butting heads and having forehead shoving matches. Males play an active role in the rearing and defense of the young. (Vercammen, et al., 1993)

Most births occur before the onset of the rainy season between September and November. Most often the female bushpig retires to a sheltered nest or hollow just before giving birth. Females have a gestation period of 120 to 127 days. Females have 1 to 4 young but can have up to 6. After birth, the female nurses the young for 2 to 4 months. Parents usually drive out young bushpigs at about 6 months of age. A young Bushpig reaches sexual maturity at 18 to 21 months. (Kingdon, 1997)

  • Breeding interval
    Bushpigs breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Mating takes place in May and June.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Range gestation period
    120 to 127 days
  • Range weaning age
    2 to 4 months
  • Average time to independence
    6 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    18 to 21 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    18 to 21 months

Boars (males) provides parental care and defense in addition to females. The dominant boar guards and leads the young to feeding areas. Boars also aggressively drive other boars off their feeding grounds. (Vercammen, et al., 1993)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

On average, bushpigs live about 20 years in the wild. (Kingdon, 1997)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    20 years

Behavior

Bushpigs are sedentary animals and protect their territories vigorously. They are predominantly nocturnal. This behavior is thought to be related to the ambient temperature, as diurnal activity occurs more often in the cooler months. Bushpigs shelter in dense vegetation, and nests may be built during rains or periods of cold. In addition, wallowing is a favorite activity. Interestingly, bushpigs are often found following frugivorous monkeys, feeding on uneaten fruit that falls to the ground. They are notorious for feeding on crops. Daily movements vary from 0.5-5 kilometers / 0.3-3 miles.

Bushpigs are social animals and are found in sounders (groups) of up to 12 members. A typical group consists of a dominant male and a dominant female, with other females and juveniles accounting for the rest. (Maberly, 1967; Simoons, 1953; Smithers, 1983; Sowls and Phelps, 1968)

  • Range territory size
    10 (high) km^2

Home Range

A sounder inhabits a mostly exclusive home range of up to 10 square kilometers. Population densities range from 0.3-10.1 animals per square kilometer. (Maberly, 1967; Simoons, 1953; Smithers, 1983; Sowls and Phelps, 1968)

Communication and Perception

Potamochoerus larvatus commonly communicate by grunting, with infrequent squeals and roars. They make a long, resonant growl as an alarm call. They also have exceptional hearing and sense of smell, but poor eyesight. (Kingdon, 1997)

Food Habits

Bushpigs feed on plant roots, rhizomes, bulbs, tubers, fruits, and insect larvae which are rooted from the subsurface soil. They also consume a variety of invertebrates, smaller vertebrates, and carrion. Their stealth and taste for agricultural food crops enables them to thrive on potatoes, maize, tomatoes, sugar cane, and other vegetables. (Maberly, 1967; Smithers, 1983)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

This species is known to be preyed upon by humans, leopards, lions, hyaenas, and pythons. (Kingdon, 1997)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Potamochoerus larvatus may be important dispersers of seeds on the forest floor and are important prey animals for large carnivores. (Vercammen, et al., 1993)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Potamochoerus larvatus is hunted widely for subsistence purposes. The influence of Islam, however, has presumably afforded these animals a good deal of protection against hunting in many African countries and in some parts of Madagascar because of taboos on consumption of pork. (Simoons, 1953; Smithers, 1983)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi bushpigs are reputed to cause more damage to agriculture than any other species. In addition, members of the genus Potamochoerus are regarded as vectors of livestock diseases and may be host to or vectors of tick-borne diseases, such as trichinosis, African swine fever and trypanosomes. Consequently, they are widely persecuted by farmers as well as targeted in wildlife control programmes. (Kingdon, 1997; Thomas and Kolbe, 1942)

Conservation Status

Potamochoerus larvatus is not considered threatened over the majority of its known range at the present time. In fact, based on research done by The World Conservation Union (IUCN), there is evidence that the conversion of former forest to secondary scrub and agriculture has resulted in an increase in their numbers in some areas. It turns out that attempts to control or eradicate Potamochoerus larvatus in these areas have usually proved unsuccessful. (Vercammen, et al., 1993)

Other Comments

It is unknown whether P. larvatus was introduced to Madagascar and Comoro Islands or naturally migrated there. Regardless of how they arrived to these islands, they are known to pose a substantial and primary threat to native wildlife species on those islands. As an invasive they are outcompeting a number of the native species and changing species composition. (Vercammen, et al., 1993)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Neil Carter (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

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

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

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.

carrion

flesh of dead animals.

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

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

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

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.

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.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

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.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

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.

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

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.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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

Breytenbach, G. 1979. The enigmatic bushpig. African Wildlife, 33(5): 48-49.

Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. London: Academic Press.

Lloyd, P., J. Millar. 1983. A questionnaire survey (1969-1974) of some larger mammals of the Cape Province. Bontebok, 3: 1-149.

Maberly, C. 1967. African bushpigs. Animals, 9(10): 556-561.

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the Worls (Fifth Edition). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Simoons, F. 1953. Notes on the bush-pig (Potamochoerus). Uganda Journal, 17: 80-81.

Smithers, R. 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Pretoria: University of Pretoria Press.

Sowls, L., R. Phelps. 1968. Observations on the African bushpig, Potamochoerus porcus Linn. in Rhodesia. Zoologica, 53(3): 75-84.

Thomas, A., F. Kolbe. 1942. The wild pigs of South Africa: their distribution and habits, and their significance as agricultural pests and carriers of disease. J. South African Veterinary Medical Assoc., 13: 1-11.

Vercammen, P., A. Seydack, W. Oliver. 1993. "The Bushpigs" (On-line). Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos Status Survey and Action Plan (1993). Accessed April 17, 2006 at http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/sgs/pphsg/APchap4-4.htm.