Chordates •

Rock hyrax

(Procavia capensis)



The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), also called dassie, Cape hyrax, rock rabbit, and (in the King James Bible) coney, is a medium-sized terrestrial mammal native to Africa and the Middle East. Commonly referred to in South Africa as the dassie (Afrikaans: klipdassie), it is one of the five living species of the order Hyracoidea, and the only one in the genus Procavia. Rock hyraxes weigh 4–5 kg (8.8–11.0 lb) and have short ears and tail. Rock hyraxes are found at elevations up to 4,200 m (13,800 ft) above sea level in habitats with rock crevices, allowing them to escape from predators. They are the only extant terrestrial afrotherians in the Middle East. Hyraxes typically live in groups of 10–80 animals, and forage as a group. They have been reported to use sentries to warn of the approach of predators. Having incomplete thermoregulation, they are most active in the morning and evening, although their activity pattern varies substantially with season and climate. Over most of its range, the rock hyrax is not endangered, and in some areas is considered a minor pest. In Ethiopia, Israel, and Jordan, it is a reservoir of the leishmaniasis parasite. Along with other hyrax species and the sirenians, this species is the most closely related to the elephant. The rock hyrax occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of the Congo Basin and Madagascar. The distribution encompasses southern Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and the Middle East, with populations in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Arabian Peninsula. The northern subspecies was introduced to Jebel Hafeet, which is on the border of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The shade of their pelts varies individually and regionally. In particular, the dorsal patches (present in both sexes) of the central populations are very variable, ranging from yellow to black, or flecked. In outlying populations, these are more constant in colour, black in P. c. capensis, cream in P. c. welwitschii, and orange in P. c. ruficeps. A larger, longer-haired population is abundant in the moraines in the alpine zone of Mount Kenya.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Mammalia
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