Gazelle-like antelopes as living flags

Gazelle-like antelopes as living flags

Colouration seeks no camouflage where it advertises safety in numbers.

More...
Perverse exercise for the growing pelican

Perverse exercise for the growing pelican

An exceptional wingspan made resilient by violent nurturing.

More...
Why do mangroves lack fruity succulence?

Why do mangroves lack fruity succulence?

Potassium, the mineral of fruit-juice, can be unaffordable for mere seed-wrappings.

More...
Warning colouration in the giant panda

Warning colouration in the giant panda

The most checkered of bears is the least likely to be worth attacking naively.

More...
The marsupial lion: all slice and no bite

The marsupial lion: all slice and no bite

Unsheath the hidden weapon of an Australian carnivore with desultory canines.

More...
Supermoles despite being marsupial moles

Supermoles despite being marsupial moles

Notoryctids are primitively pouched but at the cutting-edge in other aspects.

More...
Who chose the eyespots on the peacock?

Who chose the eyespots on the peacock?

Peahens were less likely than human protectors to select for these false eyes.

More...
A continent mysteriously empty of tortoises

A continent mysteriously empty of tortoises

Land tortoises failed in Australia not by historical accident but by poor ecological prospects.

More...
Seeing the light for the trees

Seeing the light for the trees

Height of woodlands and savannas is aimed at resources scarcer than sunshine.

More...
How beavers engineered landscapes for bison

How beavers engineered landscapes for bison

Tree-felling, ponding, and silt-damming all eventually produce big grazing.

More...
Trees as green quazi-zombies

Trees as green quazi-zombies

Ponder the resources that really matter under the shade of the energetic living dead.

More...
The hidden power of sea snakes over eels

The hidden power of sea snakes over eels

Why eels can’t defend themselves from being engulfed by sea snakes.

More...
Time did not limit evolution in Zealandia

Time did not limit evolution in Zealandia

Why these are the largest islands without native terrestrial mammals.

More...
Kiwi were no solution to a mammalian vacuum

Kiwi were no solution to a mammalian vacuum

These birds are more far-fetched that even the least likely of furred imposters.

More...
Why external ears are redundant in birds

Why external ears are redundant in birds

A streamlined head is only part of the explanation why birds avoid using external pinnae to locate sounds.

More...
Why elephants defecate wantonly

Why elephants defecate wantonly

Megaherbivore digestion seems inefficient until its cream-skimming tactic is recognised.

More...
What is the real value of a kidney?

What is the real value of a kidney?

There must be good reason why the kidney is twice as energy-intensive as the brain or liver, making it the…

More...
Are birds really avian dinosaurs?

Are birds really avian dinosaurs?

Birds originated from dinosaurs, but equating them with dinosaurs falls off a logical tightrope.

More...
A new vitamin hiding in plain light

A new vitamin hiding in plain light

 Food beliefs have fallen on the buttered side

More...
D stands for delete as vitamin

D stands for delete as vitamin

Calciferol, vital but not vitamin

More...
Coital fanging in a giant cartilaginous fish

Coital fanging in a giant cartilaginous fish

A plankton-siever with only the rudest of Jaws.

More...
Does rickets show clinical deficiency of boron?

Does rickets show clinical deficiency of boron?

Hormonal ossification is elementary.

More...
What lies behind the kidney’s iron curtain?

What lies behind the kidney’s iron curtain?

Where the body ‘earths’ its electrons.

More...
An explanation for sexual skew in the priapiumfish

An explanation for sexual skew in the priapiumfish

Why micro-meta-genitals evolved in fishes.

More...
Can any true bambi weather a desert?

Can any true bambi weather a desert?

What it takes to drought-proof 3-centimetre hooves.

More...
Archaeopteryx is neither a first bird nor a bird in the first place

Archaeopteryx is neither a first bird nor a bird in the first place

The concept "archaeopteryx is a bird" is a dinosaur 

More...
Plumosaurs flew as dinosaurs, not as proto-birds

Plumosaurs flew as dinosaurs, not as proto-birds

Looking past the plumage to see the tell-tale tails.

More...
Fat mephitids not allowed in the Old World

Fat mephitids not allowed in the Old World

A black-and-white case of evolutionary skullduggery?

More...
Authentic mega-killers kept their mouths shut

Authentic mega-killers kept their mouths shut

The mythical snarl of dental sabres

More...
The paradox of the fire-loving crayfishes

The paradox of the fire-loving crayfishes

Building a life on wet combustion.

More...
A thumbs-up on amphibians

A thumbs-up on amphibians

The human hand as living fossil.

More...
The riddle of the failed frogs of Gondwana

The riddle of the failed frogs of Gondwana

Zealandic amphibians are a damp squib.

More...
Why no southern salamanders?

Why no southern salamanders?

The evolutionary compass of amphibian tails.

More...
Frogs are more dexterous than lizards

Frogs are more dexterous than lizards

The simplest frog is more manipulative than the cleverest lizard.

More...
 Frogs' tails hiding in plain sight

Frogs' tails hiding in plain sight

De-tailed amphibians conceal a hiptail of unknown potential.

More...
The dagger looks of golden toads

The dagger looks of golden toads

Black eyes can be poisonous exclamations in orange frogs.

More...
The giant panda as a sinister signboard

The giant panda as a sinister signboard

A black and white warning of dangerous teeth

More...
Arboreal reflections of amphibian eyes

Arboreal reflections of amphibian eyes

The bulging eyes of water and tree frogs differ more than they look.

More...
Frontpage Slideshow | Copyright © 2006-2012 JoomlaWorks Ltd.
Bio-bullets

Can any true bambi weather a desert?

The steenbok is uniquely diminutive among the ungulates of semi-desert dunes and plains.

professor caricatureProf. Mumblebard claims: "Ungulates span an extreme range of body sizes. They also occur in many different climates, with the most drought-adapted forms being able to forgo drinking for long periods. Diminutive species of hoofed mammals are, however, too small to follow rain nomadically and cannot survive without the cover of plants and rocks. For these reasons, no ungulate smaller than 15 kilograms in adulthood has penetrated semi-desert on loose sand or flat terrain, where the exposure to predators as well as sun and wind is prohibitive."

logoRobin and the Honey Badger respond: “Some 35 species of ruminants can be categorised as having body mass less than 15 kilograms – this extremely small size warranting the scientific adoption of the previously informal word ‘bambis’. Although all bambis are vulnerable to aridity owing to their small size, one globally unique species is the steenbok, of which some southern African populations reside permanently in semi-desert dunes and plains. This ungulate is able to survive despite the extreme scarcity of cover by virtue of the availability of forms of shelter and food which are not immediately apparent in these semi-deserts. Uniquely for an ungulate unable to excavate with its head, the steenbok is known to evade predators by bolting down holes made by the aardvark. It is also known to hide and suckle its infants below ground level. Given its propensity for utilising burrows, the steenbok probably also seeks refuge underground from the sun. In terms of food, small succulents and edible geophytes are surprisingly reliable in the Karoo, in the Kalahari, and at the edge of the Namib. Despite being inconspicuousthese plants supply the steenbok with enough water to compensate partly for the lack of shade. The ability to excavate geophytes adds a further layer of intrigue to the remarkable ability of this bambi to defy aridity: the small hooves and spindly legs of the steenbok are oddly adept at digging. Our new insight is that the extraordinary penetration by the steenbok of arid dunes and plains in southern Africa reflects forms of life below the soil surface – particularly fossorial mammals far larger than the steenbok, and tubers which remain turgid even in drought – that fail to reach the edges of most deserts on Earth."

Please join us here at the Bio-edge with your own comments. In the discussion below we encourage links to any evidence supporting either Prof. Mumblebard or Robin and the Honey Badger. Illustrations are welcome but please cite all sources or we may be forced under copyright to delete your comment.

 

Can any true bambi weather a desert?

Last modified on 16 July 2015

Comments   

0 #1 Zoophile 2014-09-22 09:11
These photos show how big the ears can be in the steenbok, almost as if in parallel with the fennec fox as an adaptation to desert conditions.
0 #2 Zoophile 2014-09-22 09:14
And maybe I should make my point better by comparing these big desert ears with the small ears of steenbok in greener places like Kruger Park.
This first steenbok with small ears is in Kruger Park

whereas this second steenbok with big ears is in Namibia
0 #3 Zoophile 2014-09-23 08:35
Excuse my obsession with bambi ears, but this photo of Raphicerus campestris steinhardti, taken in Namibia, shows how big the ears can get in the desert-adapted form of steenbok.
0 #4 Wildman 2014-10-06 14:26
Wow, someone got a steenbok out on the bare dunes in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa. Only 10kg, about the weight of a cocker spaniel and less than a corgi.
wildscenics.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Secrets-of-the-Kgalagadi/G0000pkP6iV3T1tA/I0000ZxsUZ4Sh51U
0 #5 Zoophile 2014-10-07 11:27
This photo shows steenbok at the edge of the Namib Desert in Namibia.

0 #6 P. Daniels 2014-10-07 11:54
I found this photo of steenbok at the edge of the Namib Desert. It's strange seeing such a delicate-lookin g animal in such stark surrounds. It really does look like a bambi, doesn't it?
c1.staticflickr.com/.../...
0 #7 M. R. Zeman 2014-10-07 12:49
I found this picture of a steenbok out on the dunes in South Africa in the daytime.

0 #8 Brad 2014-10-08 08:51
This almost looks like a museum diorama but it's real. Taken in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The subspecies is Raphicerus campestris steinhardti.
0 #9 Johns 2014-10-09 10:43
There are small patches of cover even at the edge of the Namib and here's a steenbok next to one.
0 #10 Zoophile 2014-10-10 08:52
There are so many photos of steenbok out there on the web that some actually catch it in the act of digging for food. Here's one taken in the Kalahari.
0 #11 Julien Peter Benney 2015-02-28 01:53
Interesting to see! Since the Horn of Africa has more erratic rainfall than the Maghreb, it’s interesting to see why bambis are absent from the Maghreb and have never evolved independently in Baja – arguably the most erratically watered desert on Earth but much more nutrient-rich than any African desert with its young volcanoes. Maybe Baja is too nutrient-rich for animals like the aardvark and even too erratic for geophytes??

You have no rights to post comments