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The Cape eland

14 April 2014

 

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The Cape eland Taurotragus oryx oryx is South Africa’s largest antelope but it is smaller than the giant, or Lord Derby, eland Taurotragus derbianus which occurs further north in Africa. The Cape eland was first described scientifically by Pallas in 1766 as Antelope oryx, based on a specimen which came from the mountains north of Cape Town. Because Antelope only occurs in India, the generic name Taurotragus was created in 1847 by Gray for all eland. Largely because the eland and the greater kudu may hybridise, some scientists have placed the eland under the greater kudu’s generic name Tragelaphus, but this is taxonomically invalid. Any similarities are primitive as a result of retaining a similar morphology by the chromosomes, and Taurotragus and Tragelaphus are products of parallel development, having already diverged phylogenetically thousands of years ago. Moreover, hybridisation occurs between other antelope species too and is no reason to lump their generic names. Recent species-specific genotyping with single nucleotide polymorphism indicates that Taurotragus still is a valid genus. The oldest eland fossils lived some 1 million to 500 000 years ago at Olduvai in Tanzania, but they were more primitive than the current types of eland.

Both sexes carry spiralled horns that in a bull are... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

References:

Decker, J et al. 2009. Resolving the evolution of extant and extinct ruminants with high-throughput phylogenomics. PNAS 106 (44): 18644 – 18649.

Du Toit, J G 2005. The eland. In J du P Bothma and N van Rooyen (Eds), Intensive wildlife production in southern Africa. Pretoria: Van Schaik, pp 108 – 124.

Grubb, P 2005. Order Artiodactyla. In D E Wilson and D M Reeder (Eds), Mammal species of the world - a taxonomic and geographic reference, third edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp 696 – 697.

Skinner, J D and C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 637 – 642.

Article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

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