Gazelle

GazelleGazelle — A gazelle is an antelope of the genus Gazella, although the three members of the genus Procapra also widely are referred to as gazelles. Gazelles are known as swift animals; they are able to reach high speeds (as high as 50-55 mph) for long periods of time. Gazelles are mostly found in the grasslands and savannas of Africa, but they are also found in southwest Asia. They tend to live in herds and will eat less coarse, easily digestible plants and leaves.

The gazelle species are classified as part of the order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae and genus Gazella. Members of the Articodacycla order are principally distinguished by the foot; they have an even number of toes (the bovid family comprises 6 genera and 12 species). The taxonomy of the genus Gazella is a confused one, and the classification of species and subspecies has been an unsettled issue. Three species—the Red Gazelle, the Arabian Gazelle, and the Queen of Sheba’s Gazelle—are extinct. All other gazelle species are listed as endangered, to varying degrees.

A recognizable example of the gazelle is Thomson’s Gazelle (Gazelle thomsonii), which is around 60 to 90 cm (23 to 35 inches) in height at the shoulder and is coloured brown and white with a distinguishing black stripe (as in the picture on the right). The males have long, often curved, horns. Tommies, as they are familiarly called, exhibit a distinctive behaviour of stotting (running slowly and jumping high before fleeing) when they are threatened by predators such as lions or cheetahs. This is a primary piece of evidence for the handicap principle advanced by Amotz Zahavi in the study of animal communication and behaviour.

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