4 March 2020

A New Replenishment of Darwin Museum Collection – the Skull of the South African Springhare

(Pedetes capensis Forster, 1778)

The skull was prepared by one of Darwin museum’s taxidermists using the materials provided by the Moscow zoo.

The South African springhare (Pedetes capensis Forster, 1778) is the species in the genus Pedetes, and is native to southern Africa. It is not a hare, but a rodent.

The springhare looks like a miniature kangaroo or a giant version of a rodent of the family Dipodidae. The length of its body reaches up to 45 cm., the weight – up to 4 kg. The tail adds to another 36–47 cm in length. They have a thick, muscular neck supporting their short head. They also have large eyes, and their ears (that can grow up to 9 cm.) have a tragus that prevents sand from entering when they are digging.

It is native to South Africa, from the southern border of Congo and Kenya to the Cape of Good Hope. A small group of springhares inhabits the East of Africa. It inhabits desert and semi-desert plains, sometimes pastures and fields of wheat, oats, and barley. Most often, springhares settle on sandy, dry soils, in river valleys and woodland. They tend to have several burrows which look like settlements and can be easily detected due to soil emissions. Springhares are mostly nocturnal; during the day they hide in a burrow, having plugged the entrance from the inside with soil to keep the burrow cool during the daytime. Each burrow is occupied by one animal or a pair with offsprings. But since the burrows are located close, and the personal home range is within 25 to 250 m of its burrow, it seems that the springhares stay and feed in groups.

 

When calm, they move using all four limbs and dig food with forefeet. But in case of danger, like a kangaroo, they make giant leaps on their hind legs. The length of the leap can reach 2-3 m (according to some sources, 6-9 m). This ability together with long "hare" ears, gave the animal its English name "springhare".

 

Springhares feed on plants (both parts above and below ground), less often on insects and lizards. They like to lick salt from the soil. They may be harmful to crops.







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