WHAT ABOUT HYRAXES

or hyraxen, as i like to call them.  you might call them dassies or conies, but let’s not get carried away.

JUST KIDDING the hyrax doesn’t eat wood, because it doesn’t have the right flora in its gut to digest the cellulose. nice try, hyrax, you aren’t gonna fool us this time.

the furry little hyrax is closely related to large grey mammals–elephants, dugongs, manatees.  its closest relative is the elephant, and this might seem far-fetched but they have similar feet!  hyraxen and elephants both have four toes on the front feet and three toes behind.  a hyrax’s hind foot is unique–the middle digit has a claw, but the first and third digits have mini hooves.   hyrax feet have spongy centres, to aid them in climbing.  there are a few different species of hyrax; some are rock hyrax, or hyrox if you will, and the others are tree hyrax, for which i have no clever portmanteau.

hyraxen are kind of like platypus(ses?)in that they’re an unlikely combination of traits mostly found in other animals.  elephant feet. incisors that are not used for shearing off food material but continuously grow like a rodent’s front teeth (which of course they are not). you might even consider them to be somewhat analogous to elephant tusks.

 

little tusks! aww

next up on the weird trait list, they have to complex multi-chambered stomachs, like ruminants!  hyraxen even appear to chew cud, but in actuality that is not what they’re doing.  on this laundry list of hyrax traits we also have   poorly developed adaptations for thermoregulation, so they must huddle together or bask in the sun like reptiles in order to warm up.

cuddle puddle! stay warm, guys!

add another trait to this pile: hyraxen are highly adaptable little dudes.  they live in a variety of environments, from sea-level to elevations 14,000 feet (the tallest mountain in bc is only 13,000 ft)!  they’re native to east africa and parts of the arabian peninsula.

mountain climber

fossil remains show that hyraxen used to be as large as oxen*, which may explain their unusually long gestation period: they are about the size of a housecat, but carry their young for about eight months.  in comparison, the gestation period of a cat is approximately two months.  and get this: hyrax babies are only a few ounces at birth, but within a few days they eat solid food!  they eat hyrax poop (yes, ew) to populate their guts with helpful flora.  kiind of counterintuitive, but it seems to work for them…!

baby hyrax!

also, hyraxen are wonderful because they look SO GRUMPY ALL THE TIME.  and they have funny chittery voices!  research has shown that songs vary in syntax and are differs between locations, which points to them being dialectical.  SO COOL

* the -en plural form works so much better than -s when the word ends in s!  hence my stubbornness with calling foxes ‘foxen’ and hyraxes ‘hyraxen’.  cause daaamn, we don’t say oxs, do we? NO, WE DO NOT.  i am fully aware of the many inconsistencies in the english language, but this is where i’m choosing to make a stand!

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