Quagga

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Quagga
Quagga photo.jpg
Live quagga mare at the London Zoo, 1870
Conservation status

Extinct  (1883) (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Genus: Equus
Subgenus: Hippotigris
Species: E. quagga
Subspecies: E. q. quagga
Trinomial name
Equus quagga quagga
(Boddaert, 1785)
Quagga range.png
Former range in red
Synonyms

The quagga (/ˈkwɑːxɑː/ or /ˈkwæɡə/)[2][3][4] (Equus quagga quagga) is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra that lived in South Africa until the nineteenth century. It was long thought to be a distinct species, but genetic studies have shown it to be the southernmost subspecies of the plains zebra. It is considered particularly close to Burchell's zebra. Its name is derived from its call, which sounds like "kwa-ha-ha".

The quagga is believed to have been around 257 cm (8 ft 5 in) long and 125–135 cm (4 ft 1 in–4 ft 5 in) tall at the shoulder. It was distinguished from other zebras by its limited pattern of primarily brown and white stripes, mainly on the front part of the body. The rear was brown and without stripes, and therefore more horse-like. The distribution of stripes varied considerably between individuals. Little is known about the quagga's behaviour, but it may have gathered into herds of 30–50 individuals. Quaggas were said to be wild and lively, yet were also considered more docile than Burchell's zebra. They were once found in great numbers in the Karoo of Cape Province and the southern part of the Orange Free State in South Africa.

Since Dutch settlement of South Africa began, the quagga was heavily hunted as it competed with domesticated animals for forage. While some individuals were taken to zoos in Europe, breeding programs were not successful. The last wild population lived in the Orange Free State, and the quagga was extinct in the wild by 1878. The last captive specimen died in Amsterdam on 12 August 1883. Only one quagga was ever photographed alive and only 23 skins are preserved today. In 1984, the quagga was the first extinct animal to have its DNA analysed, and the Quagga Project is trying to recreate the phenotype of hair coat pattern and related characteristics by selectively breeding Burchell's zebras.

Taxonomy[edit]

1804 illustration by Samuel Daniell, which was the basis of the subspecies E. q. danielli

The name "quagga" is derived from the Khoikhoi word for zebra and is onomatopoeic, being said to resemble the quagga's call, variously transcribed as "kwa-ha-ha",[5] "kwahaah",[2] or "oug-ga".[6] The name is still used colloquially for the plains zebra.[5] The quagga was originally classified as a distinct species, Equus quagga, in 1778 by Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert.[7] Traditionally, the quagga and the other plains and mountain zebras were placed in the subgenus Hippotigris.[8]

There has been much debate over the status of the quagga in relation to the plains zebra. It is poorly represented in the fossil record, and the identification of these fossils is uncertain, as they were collected at a time when the name quagga referred to all zebras.[5] Fossil skulls of Equus mauritanicus from Algeria have been claimed to show affinities with the quagga and the plains zebra, but they may be too badly damaged to allow definite conclusions to be drawn from them.[9] Quaggas have also been identified in cave art attributed to the San.[10] Reginald Innes Pocock was perhaps the first to suggest that the quagga was a subspecies of plains zebra in 1902. As the quagga was scientifically described and named before the plains zebra, the trinomial name for the quagga becomes E. quagga quagga under this scheme, and the other subspecies of plains zebra are placed under E. quagga as well.[9]

Historically, quagga taxonomy was further complicated by the fact that the extinct southernmost population of Burchell's zebra (Equus quagga burchellii, formerly Equus burchellii burchellii) was thought to be a distinct subspecies (also sometimes thought a full species, E. burchellii). The extant northern population, the "Damara zebra", was later named Equus quagga antiquorum, which means that it is today also referred to as E. q. burchellii, after it was realised they were the same taxon. The extinct population was long thought very close to the quagga, since it also showed limited striping on its hind parts.[8] As an example of this, Shortridge placed the two in the now disused subgenus Quagga in 1934.[11] Most experts now suggest that the two subspecies represent two ends of a cline.[12]

The mare in London Zoo, 1870

Different subspecies of plains zebra were recognised as members of Equus quagga by early researchers, though there was much confusion over which species were valid.[13] Quagga subspecies were described on the basis of differences in striping patterns, but these differences were since attributed to individual variation within the same populations.[14] Some subspecies and even species, such as E. q. danielli and Hippotigris isabellinus, were only based on illustrations (iconotypes) of aberrant quagga specimens.[15][16] Some authors have described the quagga as a kind of wild horse rather than a zebra, and one craniometric study from 1980 seemed to confirm its affiliation with the horse (Equus caballus).[12] It has been pointed out that early morphological studies were erroneous; using skeletons from stuffed specimens can be problematical, as early taxidermists sometimes used donkey and horse skulls inside their mounts when the originals were unavailable.[17]

Evolution[edit]

Specimen in the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, which has been sampled for DNA

The quagga was the first extinct animal to have its DNA analysed,[18] and this 1984 study launched the field of ancient DNA analysis. It confirmed that the quagga was more closely related to zebras than to horses,[19] with the quagga and mountain zebra (Equus zebra) sharing an ancestor 3–4 million years ago.[18] An immunological study published the following year found the quagga to be closest to the plains zebra.[20] A 1987 study suggested that the mtDNA of the quagga diverged at a range of roughly 2% per million years, similar to other mammal species, and again confirmed the close relation to the plains zebra.[21]

Later morphological studies came to conflicting conclusions. A 1999 analysis of cranial measurements found that the quagga was as different from the plains zebra as the latter is from the mountain zebra.[19] A 2004 study of skins and skulls instead suggested that the quagga was not a distinct species, but a subspecies of the plains zebra.[8] In spite of these findings, many authors subsequently kept the plains zebra and the quagga as separate species.[5]

A genetic study published in 2005 confirmed the subspecific status of the quagga. It showed that the quagga had little genetic diversity, and that it diverged from the other plains zebra subspecies only between 120,000 and 290,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene, and possibly the penultimate glacial maximum. Its distinct coat pattern perhaps evolved rapidly because of geographical isolation and/or adaptation to a drier environment. In addition, plains zebra subspecies tend to have less striping the further south they live, and the quagga was the most southern-living of them all. Other large African ungulates diverged into separate species and subspecies during this period as well, probably because of the same climate shift. The simplified cladogram below is based on the 2005 analysis (some taxa shared haplotypes and could therefore not be differentiated):[19]



Mountain zebra (E. zebra)




Grévy's zebra (E. grevyi)






Quagga (E. q. quagga)



Damara zebra (E. q. antiquorum)-Chapman's zebra (E. q. chapmani)



Damara zebra-Chapman's zebra




Grant's zebra (E. q. boehmi)




Grant's zebra





Description[edit]

Painting of a stallion in Louis XVI's menagerie at Versailles by Nicolas Marechal, 1793

The quagga is believed to have been 257 cm (8 ft 5 in) long and 125–135 cm (4 ft 1 in–4 ft 5 in) tall at the shoulder.[12] Its coat pattern was unique among equids: zebra-like in the front but more like a horse in the rear.[19] It had brown stripes on the head and neck, brown upper parts and a white belly, tail and legs. The stripes were darkest on the head and neck and became gradually lighter further down the body, blending with the reddish brown of the back and flanks, until disappearing along the back. It appears to have had a high degree of polymorphism, with some individuals having almost no stripes and others having patterns similar to the extinct southern population of Burchell's zebra, where the stripes covered most of the body except for the hind parts, legs and belly.[12] It also had a broad dark dorsal stripe on its back. It had a standing mane with brown and white stripes.[6]

The London mare next to a keeper, 1864

The only quagga to have been photographed alive was a mare at the Zoological Society of London's Zoo. Five photographs of this specimen are known, taken between 1863 and 1870.[22] On the basis of photographs and written descriptions, many observers suggest that the stripes on the quagga were light on a dark background, unlike other zebras. Reinhold Rau, pioneer of the Quagga Project, claimed that this is an optical illusion: that the base colour is a creamy white and that the stripes are thick and dark.[12] Embryological evidence supports zebras being dark coloured with white as an addition.[23]

Living in the very southern end of the plains zebra's range, the quagga had a thick winter coat that moulted each year. Its skull was described as having a straight profile and a concave diastema, and as being relatively broad with a narrow occiput.[8][24] Like other plains zebras, the quagga did not have a dewlap on its neck as the mountain zebra does.[9] The 2004 morphological study found that the skeletal features of the southern Burchell's zebra population and the quagga overlapped, and that they were impossible to distinguish. Some specimens also appeared to be intermediate between the two in striping, and individuals of the extant Burchell's zebra population still exhibit limited striping. It can therefore be concluded that the two subspecies graded morphologically into each other. Today, some stuffed specimens of quaggas and southern Burchell's zebra are so similar that they are impossible to definitely identify as either, since no location data was recorded. The female specimens used in the study were larger than the males on average.[8]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

Live stallion at the Royal College of Surgeons, painted by Jacques-Laurent Agasse in the early 1800s

The quagga was the southernmost distributed plains zebra, mainly living south of the Orange River. It was a grazer, and its habitat range was restricted to the grasslands and arid interior scrubland of the Karoo region of South Africa, today forming parts of the provinces of Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and the Free State.[12][25] These areas were known for distinctive flora and fauna and high amounts of endemism.[24][26]

Little is known about the behaviour of quaggas in the wild, and it is sometimes unclear what exact species of zebra is referred to in old reports.[12] The only source that unequivocally describes the quagga in the Free State is that of the English military engineer and hunter Major Sir William Cornwallis Harris.[8] His 1840 account reads as follows:

The geographical range of the quagga does not appear to extend to the northward of the river Vaal. The animal was formerly extremely common within the colony; but, vanishing before the strides of civilisation, is now to be found in very limited numbers and on the borders only. Beyond, on those sultry plains which are completely taken possession of by wild beasts, and may with strict propriety be termed the domains of savage nature, it occurs in interminable herds; and, although never intermixing with its more elegant congeners, it is almost invariably to be found ranging with the white-tailed gnu and with the ostrich, for the society of which bird especially it evinces the most singular predilection. Moving slowly across the profile of the ocean-like horizon, uttering a shrill, barking neigh, of which its name forms a correct imitation, long files of quaggas continually remind the early traveller of a rival caravan on its march. Bands of many hundreds are thus frequently seen doing their migration from the dreary and desolate plains of some portion of the interior, which has formed their secluded abode, seeking for those more luxuriant pastures where, during the summer months, various herbs thrust forth their leaves and flowers to form a green carpet, spangled with hues the most brilliant and diversified.[27]

Fifth known photo of the London Zoo mare, taken in 1863, rediscovered in 1991

Quaggas have been reported gathering into herds of 30–50 individuals and sometimes travelled in a linear fashion.[12] They may have been sympatric with Burchell's zebra between the Vaal and Orange rivers.[8][26] This is disputed,[8] and there is no evidence that they interbred.[26] It could also have shared a small portion of its range with Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae).[19]

Quaggas were said to be lively and highly strung, especially the stallions. During the 1830s, quaggas were used as harness animals for carriages in London, the males probably being gelded to mitigate their volatile nature.[28] Local farmers used them as guards for their livestock, as they were likely to attack intruders.[29] On the other hand, captive quaggas in European zoos were said to be tamer and more docile than Burchell's zebra.[12] One specimen was reported to have lived in captivity for 21 years and 4 months, dying in 1872.[12]

Since the practical function of striping has not been determined for zebras in general, it is unclear why the quagga lacked stripes on its hind parts. A cryptic function for protection from predators (stripes obscure the individual zebra in a herd) and biting flies (which are less attracted to striped objects), as well as various social functions, have been proposed for zebras in general. Differences in hind quarter stripes may have aided species recognition during stampedes of mixed herds, so that members of one subspecies or species would follow its own kind. It has also been hypothesised that the zebras developed striping patterns as thermoregulation to cool themselves down, and that the quagga lost them due to living in a cooler climate, although one problem with this is that the mountain zebra lives in similar environments and has a bold striping pattern.[30] A 2014 study strongly supported the biting-fly hypothesis, and the quagga appears to have lived in areas with lesser amounts of fly activity compared to other zebras.[31]

Decline and extinction[edit]

Skeleton at the Grant Museum

As it was easy to find and kill, the quagga was hunted by early Dutch settlers and later by Afrikaners to provide meat or for their skins. The skins were traded or used locally. The quagga was probably vulnerable to extinction due to its limited distribution, and it may have competed with domestic livestock for forage.[29] The quagga had disappeared from much of its range by the 1850s. The last population in the wild, in the Orange Free State, was extirpated in the late 1870s.[12] The last known wild individual died in 1878.[29]

Individual quaggas were also captured and shipped to Europe, where they were displayed in zoos.[12] Lord Morton tried to save the animal from extinction by starting a captive breeding program. He was only able to obtain a single male which, in desperation, he bred with a female horse. This produced a female hybrid with zebra stripes on its back and legs. Lord Morton's mare was sold and was subsequently bred with a black stallion, resulting in offspring that again had zebra stripes. An account of this was published in 1820 by the Royal Society.[32] This led to new ideas on telegony, referred to as pan-genesis by Charles Darwin.[25]

The last known quagga and a great auk, in Naturalis, Leiden

The last captive specimen, a female in Amsterdam's Natura Artis Magistra zoo, lived there from 9 May 1867 until it died on 12 August 1883, but its origin and cause of death were not recorded. The specimen in London died in 1872 and the one in Berlin in 1875.[14] There are 23 known stuffed and mounted quagga specimens throughout the world. In addition, there is a mounted head and neck, a foot, seven complete skeletons, and samples of various tissues. A twenty-fourth mounted specimen was destroyed in Königsberg, Germany, during World War II.[33]

Breeding back project[edit]

Main article: Quagga Project

After the very close relationship between the quagga and surviving zebras was discovered, Reinhold Rau started the Quagga Project in 1987 in South Africa to recreate the quagga by selective breeding from plains zebra stock, with the eventual aim of reintroducing them to the wild. To differentiate between the previously existing quagga zebras and the ones bred back into the environment, it has been suggested the new population should be referred to as "Rau quaggas".[25] The founding population consisted of 19 individuals from Namibia and South Africa, chosen because they had reduced striping on the rear body and legs. The first foal of the project was born in 1988. Once a sufficiently quagga-like population has been created, it will be released in the Western Cape.[17]

Introduction of Rau's quaggas could be part of a comprehensive restoration program including such ongoing efforts as eradication of non-native trees. Quaggas, wildebeest, and ostriches, which occurred together during historical times in a mutually beneficial association, could be kept together in areas where the indigenous vegetation has to be maintained by grazing. In early 2006, the third and fourth generation animals produced by the project were reported to look very much like the depictions and preserved specimens of the quagga. This type of selective breeding is called breeding back. The practice is controversial, since the resulting zebras will resemble the quaggas only in external appearance, but will be genetically different. The technology to use recovered DNA for cloning does not exist.[2][34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c Max, D. T. (1 January 2006). "Can You Revive an Extinct Animal?". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Rebuilding a Species". VOA. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 August 2014. 
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  6. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Quagga". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  7. ^ Groves, C.; Grubb, P. (2011). Ungulate Taxonomy. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 16. ISBN 1-4214-0093-6. 
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  10. ^ Ouzman, S.; Taçon, P. S. C.; Mulvaney, K.; Fullager, R. (2002). "Extraordinary Engraved Bird Track from North Australia: Extinct Fauna, Dreaming Being and/or Aesthetic Masterpiece?". Cambridge Archaeological Journal 12: 103. doi:10.1017/S0959774302000057.  edit
  11. ^ Groves, C. P.; Willoughby, D. P. (1981). "Studies on the taxonomy and phylogeny of the genus Equus. 1. Subgeneric classification of the recent species". Mammalia 45 (3). doi:10.1515/mamm.1981.45.3.321.  edit
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Nowak, R. M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World, Volume 1. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1024–1025. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9. 
  13. ^ St. Leger, J. (1932). "LXVII.—On Equus quagga of South-western and Eastern Africa". Journal of Natural History Series 10 10 (60): 587–593. doi:10.1080/00222933208673614.  edit
  14. ^ a b Van Bruggen, A.C. (1959). "Illustrated notes on some extinct South African ungulates". South African Journal of Science 55: 197–200. 
  15. ^ Schlawe, L.; Wozniak, W. (2010). "Über die ausgerotteten Steppenzebras von Südafrika QUAGGA und DAUW, Equus quagga quagga". Zeitschrift des Kölner Zoos (in German) 2: 97–128. 
  16. ^ Smith, C. H. (1841). "The Natural History of Horses: The Equidae or Genus Equus of Authors". Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars. p. 388. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.21334.  edit
  17. ^ a b Harley, E. H.; Knight, M. H.; Lardner, C.; Wooding, B.; Gregor, M. (2009). "The Quagga Project: Progress over 20 Years of Selective Breeding". South African Journal of Wildlife Research 39 (2): 155. doi:10.3957/056.039.0206.  edit
  18. ^ a b Higuchi, R.; Bowman, B.; Freiberger, M.; Ryder, O. A.; Wilson, A. C. (1984). "DNA sequences from the quagga, an extinct member of the horse family". Nature 312 (5991): 282–284. doi:10.1038/312282a0. PMID 6504142.  edit
  19. ^ a b c d e Hofreiter, M.; Caccone, A.; Fleischer, R. C.; Glaberman, S.; Rohland, N.; Leonard, J. A. (2005). "A rapid loss of stripes: The evolutionary history of the extinct quagga". Biology Letters 1 (3): 291–295. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0323. PMC 1617154. PMID 17148190.  edit
  20. ^ Lowenstein, J. M.; Ryder, O. A. (1985). "Immunological systematics of the extinct quagga (Equidae)". Experientia 41 (9): 1192–1193. doi:10.1007/BF01951724. PMID 4043335.  edit
  21. ^ Higuchi, R. G.; Wrischnik, L. A.; Oakes, E.; George, M.; Tong, B.; Wilson, A. C. (1987). "Mitochondrial DNA of the extinct quagga: Relatedness and extent of postmortem change". Journal of Molecular Evolution 25 (4): 283–287. doi:10.1007/BF02603111. PMID 2822938.  edit
  22. ^ Huber, W. (1994). "Dokumentation der fünf bekannten Lebendaufnahmen vom Quagga, Equus quagga quagga Gmelin, 1788 (Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Equidae)". Spixiana (in German) 17: 193–199. 
  23. ^ Prothero, D. R.; Schoch, R. M. (2003). Horns, Tusks, and Flippers: The Evolution of Hoofed Mammals. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 221. ISBN 0-8018-7135-2. 
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  25. ^ a b c Heywood, P. (2013). "The quagga and science: What does the future hold for this extinct zebra?". Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 56 (1): 53–64. doi:10.1353/pbm.2013.0008. PMID 23748526.  edit
  26. ^ a b c Hack, M. A.; East, R.; Rubenstein, D. I. (2002). "Status and Action Plan for the Plains Zebra (Equus burchelli)". In Moehlman, P. D. R. Equids: Zebras, Asses, and Horses: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group. p. 44. ISBN 2-8317-0647-5. 
  27. ^ Sir Cornwallis Harris, quoted in Duncan, F. M. (1913). Cassell's natural history. London: Cassell. pp. 350–351. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  28. ^ Piper, R. (20 March 2009). Extinct animals: an encyclopedia of species that have disappeared during human history. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-34987-4. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  29. ^ a b c Weddell, B. J. (2002). Conserving Living Natural Resources: In the Context of a Changing World. Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-521-78812-9. 
  30. ^ Ruxton, G. D. (2002). "The possible fitness benefits of striped coat coloration for zebra". Mammal Review 32 (4): 237–244. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2907.2002.00108.x.  edit
  31. ^ Caro, T.; Izzo, A.; Reiner, R. C.; Walker, H.; Stankowich, T. (2014). "The function of zebra stripes". Nature Communications 5. doi:10.1038/ncomms4535.  edit
  32. ^ Birkhead, T. R. (2003). A Brand New Bird: How Two Amateur Scientists Created the First Genetically Engineered Animal. Basic Books. p. 145. ISBN 0-465-00665-5. 
  33. ^ Rau, R. E. (1978). "Additions to the revised list of preserved material of the extinct Cape Colony quagga and notes on the relationship and distribution of southern plains zebras". Annals of the South African Museum 77: 27–45. ISSN 0303-2515. 
  34. ^ Freeman, C. (2009). "Ending Extinction: The Quagga, the Thylacine, and the 'Smart Human'". "Leonardo's Choice". pp. 235–256. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-2479-4_13. ISBN 978-90-481-2478-7.  edit