One of the quirkier fates of the evolutionary process is that dissimilar animals are related. Take the elephant, dugong and hyrax: they are descended from a common ancestor albeit millions of years ago. It just shows that close kinship is not a guarantee for similarity and that adaptation to environment may well have been the driving force that shaped their evolutionary journey rather than a genetic blueprint. A few common traits exist in their physiological appearance – similarities in teeth, leg and foot bones, and testes that do not descend into a scrotum.
Since my post on the “New arrivals” i’ve dipped into my archive of elephant photos to compare some of those features.
I’d have liked to have featured the dugong as well, but we’re way off dugong territory, so now it’s over to the elephant and dassies ……
The elephant photographs were shot at the Addo Elephant Park, a reserve in the Eastern Cape, and the hyrax (dassies)* are from the local colony near my home. I’ve had hours of delight watching their antics and as you can see those little creatures are as tough and hardy as their pachyderm relatives.
If you’re interested in reading more on their unlikely family links, click on the link for an excellent article written by Derek Bickerton.
* The name ‘dassie’ comes from the Dutch word for badger – dasje as mistakenly identified by the early Dutch colonists.
11 thoughts on “Related: The elephant, dugong and hyrax.”
I’m completely unfamiliar with your dassies, so I enjoyed getting to know them a bit. Of course, now I’m going to put myself on the task of learning more. Your friend in the “Elephant-tusks” photo is so handsome, and I think you have not merely a picture there but… a portrait.
Thanks for that compliment on the elephant pic 🙂
Sid, these little creatures are a marvel! I’ve been reading about the research on their vocalisation – “rich in syntactic structure”; and i like that their calls are referred to as ‘songs’. Going to try to capture some sound recordings through camcorder.
Such super shots Liz, the elephants wallow – wow how wonderful to be able to capture them!
Thanks Gilly 🙂 It was a lucky visit during a dry spell so the elephant gathered in great numbers at the water holes. Oh and how they revel in mud!
It’s so interesting how the huge elephants appear so friendly, and those little dassies look downright snarky! They sure are cute, though!
Your photographs are just wonderful!
Thanks Karen. Yes, one wonders about the dassies evolutionary path and how they downsized compared to their other relatives… tough little critters!
Wonderful photos of these wonderful animals. And interesting.
What an interesting biology lesson, masquerading as a lighthearted blogpost!
Fascinating photos and facts. I loved this.
Thanks Touch2Touch, here’s some fascinating stuff out there!
Lovely gallery Liz. I have never seen elephants anywhere else play the way the elephants do at Addo – perhaps because they are so habituated to people and cars there? You have captured their seeming sense of humour. I also love the pic of the dassies rolling in the sand together. How nice to have a watchable colony close to home.