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Chelsea Green Publishing
Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals / Edition 2

Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals / Edition 2


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781890132446
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date: 12/28/1999
Series: Helen and Scott Nearing Titles Series
Edition description: Revised and expanded edition
Pages: 459
Sales rank: 297,932
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Richard D. Estes has led wildlife-viewing safaris in Africa for many years and is one of the world's foremost experts on the social ecology of African mammals. Dr. Estes is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution Conservation and Research Center, an Associate at the Harvard Museums of Natural History, and a Trustee of The Rare Species Conservatory Foundation. He lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

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Chapter 1: Social And Mating Systems

Although a seemingly endless variety of mammal social and mating systems exists, both between and within species, a small number of basic types form a classification system that makes it easier to see the similarities and differences between species. Most mammals can be placed in one or another of these categories. Table 1.1 outlines the different types of social organization found among African hoofed mammals, carnivores, and primates, and introduces the icons that are used in chapter introductions and species accounts to identify which types apply.

Certain basic traits of mammals underlie their social and reproductive habits. For example, the presence in females of milk-producing organs helps to explain why most mammals arc polygynous (one male with two or more females). Mammaries enable females to feed offspring without male assistance. Fewer than 10 percent of mammals are monogamous (one male paired with one female). In birds, by contrast, two parents are essential to provision dependent nestlings; over 90 percent of all birds pair up during the breeding season.

Mammals, descended from a line of reptiles, evolved during the Age of Dinosaurs. In a world dominated by diurnal reptiles, unoccupied niches were available only to small, nocturnal, solitary creatures. The closest living counterparts of early mammals are the insectivores (shrews and their kind). Because good night vision depends nn a high concentration of light-sensitive rods, along with a reflective layer behind the retina, mammals lost the color vision possessed by most reptiles and birds. One consequence is that mammals, except for some monkeys and apes, lack the brilliant coloration seen in reptiles and birds. The superior visual acuity associated with a concentration of color-sensitive cones and frontally placed eyes caused our arboreal ancestors to re-evolve color vision when they became diurnal. Apart from diurnal primates, only a few other mammals arc suspected of possessing some degree of color vision: squirrels, the giraffe, and perhaps lions.

When the Age of Dinosaurs ended sixty million years ago, mammals responded by producing a multitude of different forms in successive adaptive radiations that culminated in the present (now quickly waning) Age of Mammals.

By reviewing some of the factors that predispose animals to be solitary or sociable, monogamous or polygrynous, one begins to see the linkage between an animal's size, habitat preferences, climatic factors, activity periods, diet, grouping pattern, and reproductive strategy-in short, to view social organization and mating systems as ecological adaptations.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE SOCIABLE Like their ancestors, the majority of mammals are still small and nocturnal: mice, rats, and bats account for half the four thousand species. Even within the families of large mammals covered in this book, most carnivores, primates, and solitary antelopes are small compared to a person, a hyena, or a big cat.

Being vulnerable to the whole array of predatory mammals, birds, and reptiles, small mammals depend on cover, darkness, and secure refuges such as burrows, hollows, trees, or cliffs. Hiding from predators or foraging for dispersed small food items is best done singly.

Assuming that the solitary state was the original condition of mammals, what are the benefits of group membership that would cause sociability to evolve? Being in a group entrails costs: competition for food and social rank, and greater risks of contracting a disease, for instance. Inevitably, the animals that compete most directly for the same resources are members of the same species, which share the same ecological niche. Within species, competition is potentially most continuous in the same social unit. So, for sociable genes to spread and become the norm for a species, the benefits to the individual of living in a social group must outweigh the costs.

Three advantages of social groups are generally considered paramount in the evolution of gregarious social systems:

  • Reduced risks of predation on animals that leave cover and/or become diurnal. In effect, a group substitutes for cover. The more animals in a group, the smaller the predation risk for each individual. Not only are single in dividuals more wary than individuals in a group, but large groups are generally more approachable than small groups. Also, predator surveillance is improved in a group with many eyes and ears. Becoming gregarious was likely a prerequisite to leaving concealment and exploiting open habitats. Even some normally solitary species band together when their refuges are destroyed (see antelope introduction, reedbuck and oribi accounts). Most ungulates that live in open habitats are gregarious, medium-sized to large, diurnal, and adapted to flee rather than hide from predators.
  • Increased access to and intake of food. The larger range utilized by a group secures access to more food plants or prey, making it possible to cooperate in locating, catching, and consuming food. There must be enough shared food to go around; small items such as grass, foliage, fruits, fish, rodents, insects, and other invertebrate prey must be in patches dense enough for individuals to forage in a group. For herbivores and insectivores, in particular, the greater security of group membership enables each individual to spend more time eating and less time in surveillance for predators.
  • Improved defense of resources against rival groups. If food resources within a home range arc adequate for only one group, competition with other groups is an important limiting factor. Any population in equilibrium with its resources is usually occupying all suitable habitat and producing a surplus of young.

Table of Contents

1. Social and Mating Systems

2. Observing African Mammals

3. Understanding Animal Behavior

Part I: Antelopes and Other Ruminants

4. Introducing Antelopes and Other African Ruminants

5. Duikers

6. Dwarf Antelopes

7. Gazelle Tribe

8. Reedbuck/Kob Tribe

9. Vaal or Gray Rhebok, Pelea capreolus

10. Horse Antelopes

11. Hartebeest Tribe

12. Impala, Aepyceros melampus

13. Bushbuck Tribe

14. African or Cape Buffalo, Syncerus caffer

15. Giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis

Part II: Other Hoofed Mammals

16. Swine

17. Hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius

18. Rhinoceroses

19. Zebras and Asses

20. Hyraxes or Dassies

21. Elephant, Loxodonta africana[superscript en]

Part III: Carnivores.

22. Introducing Carnivores

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Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A good book for identifying the different types of animals you'll typically see on an African safari. Great info about each species - such as what they eat, how they hunt or forage, how they mate, raise their young, etc. No color photos - only b/w illustrations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago