CREATURE FEATURE: Hyrax

The hyrax is a herbivorous (plant eating) mammal.

The plural is hyraxes. Hyrax means shrew mouse.

Hyraxes are furry and round, with short tails. They measure about 30-70 centimetres (12-18 inches) long and weigh about 2-5 kilograms (4-11 pounds).

Hyraxes are found only in the Middle East and Africa.

The hyrax pictured is a rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), found in Africa.

The hyrax has molar teeth and incisor teeth. The two upper incisors are large and tusk-like, and grow continuously throughout the hyrax’s life, similar to rodents, such as rats. The four lower incisors are deeply grooved ‘comb teeth’. Hyraxes have multi-chambered stomachs that break down tough plant materials, but they cannot regurgitate their food.

Hyraxes have pads on their feet, which help them move up steep, rocky terrains. Hyraxes have stumpy toes with hoof-like nails. They have four toes on each front foot and three on each back foot.

Female hyraxes give birth to about four babies after 7-8 months. The babies reach maturity at 16 to 17 months.

They live in small family groups, with a single male. The remaining males live solitary lives.

Surprisingly, hyraxes are related to elephants and manatees (dugongs), because the male and female reproduction organs are the same (which is different from other mammals). Also, the tusks of hyraxes develop from the incisor teeth, and so do the tusks of elephants. Most mammalian tusks develop from the canine teeth.Hyraxes, like elephants, have flattened nails on the tips of their toes, rather than curved, elongated claws, which most mammals have. So there are more similarities between hyraxes and elephants, than hyraxes and other herbivorous mammals.

hyrax

rock hyrax

hyrax

rock hyrax

 

hyrax

rock hyrax

 

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

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