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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Plains Zebra


Beauty Of Animal | Plains Zebra | The plains zebra (Equus quagga, formerly Equus burchelli), also known as the common zebra or Burchell's zebra, is the most common and geographically widespread species of zebra. It ranges from the south of Ethiopia through East Africa to as far south as Angola and eastern South Africa. The plains zebra remains common in game reserves, but is threatened by human activities such as hunting for its meat and hide, as well as competition with livestock and encroachment by farming on much of its habitat.
The Plains zebra and perhaps the mountain zebra belong to the subgenus Hippotigris, but Grévy's zebra is the sole species of subgenus Dolichohippus. The latter resembles an ass (to which it is related), while the former two are more horse-like. All three belong to the genus Equus along with other living equids. Recent phylogenetic evidence suggests that Grevy's zebras (and perhaps also Mountain Zebras) are with asses and donkeys in a separate lineage from the Plains zebra. In areas where Plains zebras are sympatric with Grévy's zebras, it is not unusual to find them in the same herds and fertile hybrids occur. In captivity, Plains zebras have been crossed with mountain zebras. The hybrid foals lacked a dewlap and resembled the plains zebra apart from their larger ears and their hindquarters pattern.

The quagga was originally classified as a separate species, Equus quagga, in 1778. Over the next 50 years or so, many other zebras were described by naturalists and explorers. Because of the great variation in coat patterns (no two zebras are alike), taxonomists were left with a great number of described "species", and no easy way to tell which of these were true species, which were subspecies, and which were simply natural variants. 
 
The quagga was the first extinct creature to have its DNA studied. Recent genetic research at the Smithsonian Institution has demonstrated that the quagga was in fact not a separate species at all, but diverged from the plains zebra, between 120,000 and 290,000 years ago, and suggests that it should be named Equus burchelli quagga. However, according to the rules of biological nomenclature, where there are two or more alternative names for a single species, the name first used takes priority. As the quagga was described about thirty years earlier than the Burchell's zebra, it appears that the correct terms are E. quagga quagga for the quagga and E. quagga burchelli for the plains zebra, unless "Equus burchelli" is officially declared to be a nomen conservandum.

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