Klipspringers (Oreotragus oreotragus) have a fairly patchy distribution due to their specific habitat requirements. Klipspringers range from north-eastern Sudan, Eritera, northern Somalia, and the Ethiopian Highlands to east and south Africa, including the west coast of Namibia and south-western Angola. (East, 1999; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Klipspringers avoid populated areas, such as the Cape Peninsula and parts of the Karoo. Otherwise, they are common in unprotected areas where settlement has not occurred and livestock is not present. They particularly have large populations in protected parks such as: Tsavo National Park (Kenya), Nyika National Park (Malawi), the Namib-Naukluft National Park (Namibia), and Matobo National Park (Zimbabwe). (Hes, 1997; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Klipspringers are restricted to rocky habitat including rocky hills or outcrops, koppies, and gorges with rocky sides. They can be found on rocky mountains as high as 4000 meters tall. Klipspringers will also travel up to 10 km along flat land between isolated koppies. (Burger, et al., 1997; Hes, 1997; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Klipspringer are small antelope weighing between 8 and 18 kg with females weighing slightly more than males (male average: 10.6 kg; female average: 13.2 kg). The total length of klipspringers is between 8 and 10 cm with females being slightly longer than males (male average: 86.2 cm; female average: 90.5 cm). Heights of klipspringer are more variable, ranging from 43 to 51 cm. (Burger, et al., 1997; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Klipspringers are stocky antelopes with a short neck and body, and large hindquarters, which help it jump from rock to rock. Their ears are rounded and large, and their tails are small and rudimentary. Their hoof structure is unique because the last joints of the digits are rotated so klipspringers can walk on the tips of their hooves. Walking wears down the hooves giving them a cylindrical shape, which is suitable for a lifestyle on the rocks. Klipspringers secrete pheromones from their preorbital glands, which are narrow black slits found in the corner of their eyes. The scent glands are more developed in males than females. (Burger, et al., 1997; Estes, 1991; Hes, 1997; Norton, 1980; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Like other African antelope, the hairs of the klipspringer are hollow and smoothed flat. Their hair assists with the reflection of radiant heat, provides insulation from thermal extremes, reduces moisture loss, and protects them from injuries. In general, their hair has a springy texture and varies between 15 to 28 mm in length. (Hes, 1997; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
The color of the klipspringer results from the pigmented tips of their guard hairs. Individual hairs are light at the base and darken to a yellow-brown near the tips. Overall, klipspringer coat color varies with origin. The color is yellow and speckled with brown in the subspecies, O. o. oreotragus, bright golden-yellow in O. o. transvaalensis, and greyer and more dull in O. o. stevensoni. The underside of their body, their chin, and the area surrounding their lips are white. Their tails are the same colors as the upper side of the body, but lighter underneath. The top of their heads are darker, whereas the sides of their faces are lighter. The back of klipspringer ears is sparsely covered with black hairs, whereas the inner ear is extensively covered with long white hairs. The lower portions of their hooves are white with a black band immediately above their hooves, extending slightly upwards on the forelimbs and up to the ankle joints of the hind limbs. (Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
There is very little information regarding the skull or dental features of klipspringers. A skull from northern Nigeria had a greater width, 3.25 inches in diameter across the orbits, compared to a skull found in East Africa, 2.94 inches in diameter across the orbits. This suggests that klipspringer skulls vary by region or subspecies. There are no specific records of klipspringer dental formulas. However a generalized antelopes, cattle, gazelles, goats, sheep, and relatives dental formula is the following: incisors 0/3, canines 0/1, premolars 3/2-3, and molars 3/3 equaling 30-32. (Lawlor, 1979; Lydekker, 1911)
Within South Africa, only the males have horns, whereas both males and females of one subspecies (O. o. schillings) have horns in the eastern regions of Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). The latter could be the result of greater competitive interactions in the east. In general, the horns are short, straight spikes that are only ringed near the base. Horns start to grow after 4 months, protrude from the top of the head after 5.5 to 6 months, and reach adult size after 17 to 18 months. The average length of a horn is 10 cm, with a record length of 16.2 cm (Ward 1998 as cited in Skinner and Chimimba 2005). (Hes, 1997; Roberts, 1996; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Klipspringers are found solitary, in monogamous pairs, or as a family group with a male, female, and their offspring. The average group size is 2.6 individuals. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Tilson and Norton, 1981)
Little has been published describing the act of mating, but males have been observed closely following females while occasionally lifting their forelegs. The male might also make low humming calls and arch its neck as a display of dominance. Mutual nibbling of the preorbital glands has also been observed in zoos (Walther 1972a as cited in Estes 1991). (Estes, 1991)
Female klipspringers will give birth to a single offspring every 16 months. Their breeding season tends to occur between August and September, but can also be variable based on local conditions. Once copulation occurs, the fetus is implanted in the right uterine horn of the female. The gestation period is about 6 months. A single young is born (weight approximately 1 kg) during the spring or summer in the shelter of rocks and vegetation. Young animals remain hidden for the first 2 to 3 months after birth and nurse for approximately 3 to 4 months from their mothers' inguinal mammae. Young are weaned after 4 to 5 months and reach sexual maturity after 7 months. After approximately 1 year, young reach adult size. Males will leave their group earlier (approximately 6 months after birth) to establish new territories, whereas females can remain in a group up to 10 or 11 months. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Hes, 1997; Norton, 1980; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005; Tilson, 1980)
Klipspringers are precocial at birth. They therefore do not require much attention from their mother, and especially not from their father. However, the father can indirectly assist its young by defending their territory from predators and potential competitors. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1980)
In a zoo, a female was observed drawing attention away from her hidden fawn when another klipspringer approached. When the female sensed the danger was gone, she went to lick her young. If the young tried to stand upright, the female would push it down into a safe area. During the day, the female would associate with the other klipspringers and occasionally go feed her hidden fawn. During the night, the other klipspringers slept in the open, while the lactating female rested beside her fawn. The male of the offspring was aggressive to any klipspringer that approached his hidden fawn. However, no parental aggression towards the offspring has ever been recorded. After three months, the young was associated with the klipspringer group. (Cueno, 1965; Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974)
A klipspringer in captivity was recorded to live up to 17 years and 10 months. There are no lifespan records for klipspringers occurring in the wild. (Jones, 1993)
Klipspringers are active both during the day and the night, but are considered most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Throughout the remainder of the day, they tend to hide in the shade to avoid the heat. When temperatures are cool, klipspringers will remain active throughout the day. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
When a klipspringer invades another klipspringer’s territory, the male chases the intruder away. If the intruder is persistent, the klipspringer will undergo antagonistic behaviors, such as dominance displays, defensive displays, and fighting as a last resort. A dominance display includes horn presentation without lowering the anterior part of the body, whereas a defensive display consists of lowering the head with the chin out while biting the intruder. Males that fight will lower their horns and butt heads, whereas females will bite and rip each other’s fur out (Walther 1972a as cited in Estes 1991). (Estes, 1991; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Klipspringers are territorial with an average home range of approximately 0.081 sq km. The size of the male’s territory will depend on the mean annual rainfall of the area. If the rainfall is high (1300 mm in the Ethiopian Highlands), the territory size will be low (0.08 sq km), and if mean annual rainfall is low (400 mm in South African Karoo), the territory size will be larger (0.15 sq km). (Burger, et al., 1997; Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Norton, 1980; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Male and female pair bond relationships might be an adaptive trait allowing greater vigilance in open habitats. Although klipspringers remain in close proximity and are aware of each other’s behaviours and locations, actual contact between members is quite rare. The median distance between a pair of klipspringers was recorded to be 2 meters. Instead of mutual grooming, alarm calling in duet and territorial markings are important in maintaining pair bond relationships. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Dunbar and Dunbar, 1980; Estes, 1991)
Klipspringers deposit feces around territory boundaries to mark their territories from conspecifics. More commonly, klipspringers scent mark by inserting bare twigs or grass pieces into their preorbital cavities, which leaves behind 4 to 6 mm smears of a black, glandular substance. Klipspringers will re-visit their scent-markings every seven days, which corresponds with the amount of time the scent remains detectable. Both sexes mark territories through scent marking, but the male usually follows the female to remark the areas she has visited. This scent marking behavior enforces pair bonding and reinforces territorial markings. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Dunbar and Dunbar, 1980; Estes, 1991)
Klipspringers feed primarily during the early morning and late afternoon, and for brief periods throughout the day. They will spend between 15 and 41 percent of their day feeding. (Norton, 1981)
When klipspringers feed, one of the group members stands and remains vigilant. The male is typically the member to stand guard as the female requires greater time to feed and accumulate energy for lactation. Alternatively, the female leads the group from one feeding area to the next, which is likely due to her high food demands. During feeding, klipspringers never stand and forage in one place, but rather move from plant to plant. They have a narrow muzzle which helps them selectively browse on plant parts. In some cases, klipspringers will stand on their back legs to reach specific fruits or flowers. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Estes, 1991; Jarman, 1974; Norton, 1980)
Klipspringer energy requirements per unit body mass are higher than larger antelope due to its small size and high metabolic rate. Klipspringers cannot consume excessive amounts of food because their stomachs are small; therefore, they selectively browse on highly nutritious plants. Klipspringers are frugivores and folivores, feeding primarily on the fruits and flowers of plants such as rock false candlewood (Maytenus oleoides), large sour-plum (Ximenia caffra), kudu berry (Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia), kuni bush (Rhus undulata), Aspalathus hirta, velvet bush-willow (Combretum molle), and horn –pod (Dichrostachys cinerea). In fact, fruits and flowers make up approximately two thirds of klipspringer diets. In general, klipspringers will not feed on grasses even when the young shoots are available for consumption. However, when it is winter or conditions are dry, klipspringers will eat more leaves because nutritious plants are not abundant. (Hes, 1997; Norton, 1980; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Klipspringers consume very little water because they live in an arid habitat. They attain most of their water from their food or from the dew accumulated on vegetation. Klipspringers will occasionally feed on succulents with thick fleshy leaves or stems for their water, but not for their nutritional content. When water is available, they will drink from temporary pools, waterholes and streams. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Estes, 1991; Norton, 1980; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
If a predator is far away and is not considered an immediate threat, klipspringers will be attentive and face their predator. If klipspringers are found in a low-visibility situation, they will move to higher ground so that they can see the potential danger. If the predator keeps still, klipspringers will eventually become relaxed. (Norton, 1980)
Klipspringers are more vulnerable to predation compared to other African antelope (e.g. duikers and bushbucks) because they live in an open habitat. Despite this, klipspringers can outrun many of their predators; therefore, the predators must rely on surprise. Leopards and caracals are considered the primary predators of klipspringers, because they show the greatest overlap with their distribution. Specifically, leopards are prominent in rocky terrain, whereas caracals are common in the koppie terrain. Other klipspringer predators include spotted hyenas, common jackals, wildcats, Simien foxes, hamadryas baboons, and eagles (e.g., Verreaux’s eagles, tawny eagles, and martial eagles). (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1980; Norton, 1980)
When a predator is a threat, klipspringers will react initially by freezing. If the predator approaches, a single klipspringer will emit a loud alarm call, which can be heard from 0.7 km away. The call consists of a trumpet-like whistle that is exhaled through the nostrils. After emitting a call, the klipspringers will run 30 to 50 meters towards higher ground with the male bringing up the rear. After reaching a safe distance, the male and female will turn towards the predator and continue to emit alarm calls in duet with the male’s call shortly followed by the female’s call. It has been suggested that alarm calls are emitted to communicate the klipspringer’s awareness to its predator rather than alert other klipspringers. (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1974; Estes, 1991; Hes, 1997; Norton, 1980; Tilson, 1980)
Ectoparasites attach to the pelage of klipspringers, but can be removed through autogrooming. Birds, such as red-winged starlings and yellow-billed bulbuls, glean ectoparasites from the body and the preorbital glands of klipspringers. The birds benefit from a food source, while the klipspringers benefit from reduced parasite loads. (Gargett, 1975; Hart, et al., 1996; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Ticks (Ixodes (Afrixodes) matopi) are found on the scent gland secretions of klipspringers. The tick will remain on a marked twig and will parasitize a klipspringer when it comes back to remark the twig. (Rechav, et al., 1978; Spickett, et al., 1981)
In the past, settlers used klipspringer hair to stuff and cushion saddles. (Norton, 1980)
Due to klipspringer preference for rocky habitat, they are seldom viewed as a problem species; however, they will occasionally browse on growing fruit buds in vineyards, orchards, and plantations across South Africa. At times, farmers will send in permits for permission to shoot problematic klipspringers. (Burger, et al., 1997; Hes, 1997; Norton, 1980)
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of threatened species, klipspringers are considered to be of ‘least concern’ with a population estimated at approximately 40,000.
The name klipspringer comes from the Afrikaans language and describes the mammal’s ability to jump from rock to rock or its capability to climb up steep rock faces. (Burger, et al., 1997)
Michelle Ewacha (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Laura Podzikowski (editor), Special Projects.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
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.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate
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.
parental care is carried out by females
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
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).
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
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.
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
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).
Living on the ground.
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
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
young are relatively well-developed when born
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