Shot of the Month – October 2012
This month a family photo of the Rock Hyrax (RH) – an image that is bound to please a diverse range of audiences.
First, for the lovers of all things cute and cuddly, this photo is definitely a crowd favorite. An easy addition to the “Awwwwwl” Collection.
Second, this image will resonate with those who love a good joke. Like really, what’s up with contestant #5 there?
“Hey, where’s the camera?”
(Send your favorite caption/tag line as a comment below)
And these little guys are going to blow your mind if you’re into zoology/taxonomy (read “animal geek”). Most people think that these little fur balls (they weigh from 4-10 pounds) are some form of guinea pig or similar rodent. Nope, not even close. The rock hyrax is actually very closely related to the elephant. All yeah, sure, that makes perfect sense….!!???
Well, its seems that elephants, hyraxes, and dugongs (a marine mammal) all came from a single common ancestor. So these three creatures are more closely related to each other than to any other living animal. (Dude, like my mind is so, pphhhtttttt, completely blown right now..pphhhhtttt..). DNA evidence indicates that hyraxes share many features with elephants: similar toenails, excellent hearing, sensitive pads on their feet, small tusks (hyraxes have 2 incisor teeth that continually grow like the tusks on elephants (they look more vampire-esque than elephantine if you ask me), good memory, high brain functions (compared to other similar mammals), and the shape of their bones.
As you can see from the photo rock hyraxes are a pretty social bunch and can live in groups of up to 80 individuals. RHs are not good at regulating their internal body temperature so on cool days you can find them huddled like this for warmth. I photographed these fellows on a cloudy, chilly morning in the Serengeti NP in Tanzania. They are also pretty talkative – they can make at least 21 different vocalizations. Apparently RH calls, called “songs” contain rich layers of information about the animal’s size, age, social status, body weight, condition, hormonal state, and so forth.
There you have it, the Chatty-Cathy-social-butterfly-elephantine-cuddly-I-want-to-spoon-fur-ball-but-not-a-rodent!-rock hyrax.
Until next month….