South African springhare
|South African Springhare
Temporal range: Early Pliocene–Recent [verification needed]
Pedetes cafer[verification needed]
The South African Springhare (Pedetes capensis), or springhaas as it is called in Afrikaans, is not actually a hare, but a member of the order Rodentia. It is one of two living species in the genus Pedetes, and is native to southern Africa. Formerly, the genus was considered monotypic and the East African Springhare (P. surdaster) was included in P. capensis. Though the species look alike at a casual glance, scientific study can easily determine which is which.
The springhare resembles a small kangaroo (though unrelated) with well-developed hind legs, which allows it to leap over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in a single bound. It is for this ability that it gets its name. This animal grows to be around 35–45 cm (14–18 in) in length excluding its long tail, and weighs an average of 3 kg (6.6 lb). The tail adds to another 36–47 cm (14–19 in) in length. The colour of this mammal varies from a reddish-brown to a pale grey, with a black tip on the tail. The springhare lives only in south-eastern Africa, feeding on plant matter and even occasionally insects. They have four toes on their hind feet with claws that look like small hoofs; these are wider than those found on the forefeet. They have a thick muscular neck supporting their short head. They also have large eyes, and their ears have a tragus that prevents sand from entering when they are digging.
Springhares breed throughout the year. The females give birth to a single infant about three times a year. Unlike some other rodents, which have blind and hairless young, springhares are born furred, and are active within a very short time of birth. However, they are not weaned and do not leave the burrow until they are about half grown. This extended period of parental care helps to mitigate a birth-rate that is, among rodents, remarkably low.
Springhares are mostly nocturnal but are occasionally active in the day. During the daytime, they live in tunnels that they dig. They plug the entrance of the hole with soil from the inside of the tunnel. It is easier for them to dig during the rainy season when the soil is wet. Sometimes they leap out of their burrows when they come out at night. The springhare jumps like a kangaroo on its hind legs, retreating to its burrow when frightened.
It has been found that a pair of springhares may occupy many different burrows on different days. They tend to make three burrows together in a circular shape. These burrows are mostly found near the largest tree or bush within their home range. The springhare's home range is within 25 to 250 m (82 to 820 ft) of its burrow. It may expand its area during a drought.
The springhare's unoccupied burrows are sometimes used for hiding during the daytime by the Black-footed cat.
The South African Springhare is listed as Species of Least Concern by the IUCN.
- Butynski, T. M. M. & De Jong, Y. (2008). Pedetes capensis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
- Dieterlen, F. (2005). "Family Pedetidae". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 1535. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Matthee, C. A. and Robinson, T. J. 1997. Mitochondrial DNA phylogeography and comparative cytogenetics of the springhare, Pedetes capensis (Mammalia: Rodentia). Journal of Mammalian Evolution 4: 53-73.
- Matthee, C. A. and Robinson, T. J. 1997a. Molecular phylogeny of the springhare, Pedetes capensis, based on mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Biology and Evolution 14 (1) : 20-29.
- Butynski, Thomas M. (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 634–635. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
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