The lesser kudu (Ammelaphus imberbis, formerly Tragelaphus imberbis) is a forest antelope found in East Africa. It was first described by Edward Blyth in 1869. The lesser kudu at one time was thought to be a smaller version of the greater kudu, but now is considered to be a more primitive species. The lesser kudu are 90 to 110 cm (35 to 43 in) tall at the shoulder and weigh 60–100 kg (130–220 lb).
Lesser kudu live in dry thorn bush and forest and eat mainly leaves. They are nocturnal and matinine crepuscular. They live in groups of two to five ranging up to twenty-four. Lesser kudu can jump distances more than 6 m (20 ft) and 2 m (6.6 ft) high. They can also reach running speeds of around 70 km/h (43 mph).
The lesser kudu is native to Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and the United Republic of Uganda. It is regionally extinct in Djibouti. Marked as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), its population is decreasing.
Taxonomy and evolution
The lesser kudu is the most primitive of all the spiral-horned antelopes. Its evolutionary line diverged sometime in the late Miocene, possibly as much as 10 million years ago. There is some evidence of an early hybridization between the proto-lesser kudu and the proto-nyala, but these lines have been separate for the majority of the evolutionary history.
The whole family tree for Tragelaphus (senso lato) has undergone a revision, with the lesser kudu being the most basal member of the tribe. It has long been established that the two species of eland (T. oryx and T. derbianus) are considered to be a separate genus (Taurotragus). In 1912, the genus Ammelaphus was established for just the Lesser Kudu by Edmund Heller, the type species being A. strepsiceros. As a genus, Ammelaphus had fallen out of favor, but was recently raised to a genus level by Peter Grubb and Colin Groves in 2011. Using the definition of a genus as being an evolutionary line that has remained separate since the end of the Miocene (5.8 million years ago), the lesser kudu qualifies as its own genus. But Tragelaphus is the genus the lesser kudu is generally thought to be of.
Grubb and Groves further state that Ammelaphus has two recognizable species, the northern (A. imberbis) and southern (A. australis). Prior to their level as a full species, both A. i. imberbis and A. i. australis were recognized as valid subspecies of the lesser kudu. Further genetic investigation will be needed to determine whether or not this split reflects reality.
- A. i. imberbis : Found in Ethiopia and Somalia.
- A. i. australis : Found in Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and southern Somalia.
The lesser kudu has 38 chromosomes, in both males and females. But unlike other tragelaphids, the X chromosome and Y chromosome are compound and fused with autosomes from ancestors having a greater chromosome number.
Lesser kudu is a spiral-horned antelope. They range between 90 to 110 cm (35 to 43 in) tall at the shoulder. Females weigh between 50 to 70 kg (110 to 150 lb) and the males between 60 to 90 kg (130 to 200 lb) maximum.
Males are grey-brown while females are chestnut with a lighter coat on their underside. Both have about ten white stripes on their backs and two white tufts on the underside of their necks.
Only male kudus have horns. Horns measure about 70 cm (28 in), and have one twist.
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- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Tragelaphus imberbis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- Edmund Heller (November 2, 1912). New Genera and Races of African Ungulates. Washington D. C.: Smitsonian Institution. p. 15.
- Colin Groves, Peter Grubb (2011). Ungulate Taxonomy. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 139. ISBN 1-4214-0093-6.
- Melissa Miller, Tim Wild, Steve Shurter. "Lesser kudu, Tragelaphus imberbis".
- Benirschke, K.; Rüedi, D.; Müller, H.; Kumamoto, A.T.; Wagner, K.L.; Downes, H.S. (1980). "The unusual karyotype of the lesser kudu, Tragelaphus imberbis". Cytogenetic and Genome Research 26 (2–4): 85–92. doi:10.1159/000131429.