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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wildebeest


Beauty Of Animal | Wildebeest | Gnus belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, and other even-toed horned ungulates. Connochaetes includes two species, both native to Africa: the black wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu (C. gnou), and the blue wildebeest, or brindled gnu (C. taurinus). Fossil records suggest these two species diverged about one million years ago, resulting in northern and southern species. The blue wildebeest changed very little from the ancestor species, while the black wildebeest took on more morphological changes to adapt to a habitat of open grassland in the south. Today, the blue wildebeest has five subspecies, while the black wildebeest has no named subspecies. In East Africa, the wildebeest is the most abundant big-game species, both in population and biomass
The ungainly gnu earned the Afrikaans name wildebeest, or "wild beast," for the menacing appearance presented by its large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard, and sharp, curved horns. In fact, the wildebeest is better described as a reliable source of food for the truly menacing predators of the African savanna: lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas. The gnu (pronounced "g-new" or simply "new") is a member of the antelope family, although its heavy build and disproportionately large forequarters make it look more bovine. Gnus can reach 8 feet (2.4 meters) in length, stand 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) tall at the shoulders and weigh up to 600 pounds (272 kilograms). Both males and females grow horns.
Their habitat comprises the grassy plains and open woodlands of central, southern, and eastern Africa, particularly the Serengeti in Tanzania and Kenya. They travel in large herds and are active day and night, grazing constantly. Their spectacular northward migration in search of greener pastures is dictated by weather patterns, but usually takes place in May or June. It is considered one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth, involving up to 1.5 million wildebeests as well as hundreds of thousands of other animals, including zebra and gazelle. Up to 500,000 calves are born in February and March each year, at the beginning of the rainy season. Calves learn to walk within minutes of birth and within days are able to keep up with the herd. Gnus can live to be 20 years old.
The most striking morphological differences between the black and blue wildebeests are the orientation and curvature of their horns and the color of their coats. The blue wildebeest is the bigger of the two species. In males, blue wildebeest stand 150 cm tall at the shoulder and weigh around 250 kg, while the black wildebeest stands 111 to 120 cm tall and weighs about 180 kg. In females, blue wildebeest have a shoulder height of 135 cm and weigh 180 kg while black wildebeest females stand 108 cm at the shoulder and weigh 155 kg. The horns of blue wildebeest protrude to the side then curve downwards before curving up back towards the skull, while the horns of the black wildebeest curve forward then downward before curving at the upwards at the tips. 
Blue wildebeest tend to be a dark grey color with stripes, but may have a shiny blue color. The black wildebeest has brown-coloured fur, with a mane that ranges in color from cream to black, and a cream-coloured tail end. The blue wildebeest lives in a wide variety of habitats, including woodlands and grasslands, while the black wildebeest tends to reside exclusively in open grassland areas. The blue wildebeest migrates over long distances in the winter, whereas the black wildebeest does not. The milk of the female black wildebeest contains higher protein, lower fat, and lower lactose content than the milk of female blue wildebeests

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