Friday, January 25, 2013

Species Profile: Kirk’s dik-dik (Madoqua kirkii)

Kirk's dik dik (Madoqua kirkii) - Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania
Canon 1D mark II + Canon 300mm f2.8L IS w/ Canon 1.4x converter @ f4.5 
Dik-dik’s are unique members of the family Bovidae. Like their more famous Bovid cousins, the dik-dik is a ruminant with unbranching horns and paired toes. Smallest among the antelope, these diminutive wide-eyed creatures can top out at 42 km per hour to evade monitor lizards, caracals, leopards and lions prowling about the brush-lands of East Africa. A preorbital gland lies ventral to large lashed eyes, and secretes a sticky substance used to mark territorial boundaries. The elongated nose with bellows-like musculature is an adaptation to the extreme heat on the savanna. Expansions and contractions by the snout increases airflow across blood vessels thus maintaining a constant body temperature. Famously monogamous, dik-dik males deposit dung or urine directly on the excretions produced by their mate. Such behavior is likely to deter intruder males from invading the tightly guarded territorial boundaries.

The male dik-dik pictured here just “over-marked” his mate’s feces prior to being photographed. Captured in Lake Manyara National Park, we found this dik-dik during our search for leopards in the tall brush.

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