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.