Order : Hyracoidea


Hyraxes - Mammals With Unique, Multi-chamber Stomachs

Hyraxes (Hyracoidea) is a biological order made up of four separate species of small, herbivorous mammals. The Hyracoidea order is made up of the Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis), the Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei), the Southern Tree Hyrax (Dendrohyrax arboreus) and the Western Tree Hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis). Most Hyraxes are 1 Foot (30 cm) to 2.3 Feet (70 cm) long and weigh 4.5 pounds (2 kg) to 11 pounds (5 kg).

Hyraxes are found in southern-Saharan Africa and some parts of the Middle East. They inhabit rocky areas and are equipped with sweat glands in the rubbery pads of their feet which allow them to climb large, steep, rocky mountains. In order to survive in their hot, arid environment, they are equipped with kidneys that help them retain a large amount of water.

Hyraxes are a unique order of small mammal, because they have a multi-chamber stomach which frees them from the act of chewing cud to extract nutrients from plant material. Each chamber in the stomach has symbiotic bacteria that allows them to break down plant material and also digest fiber. Hyraxes often make an antagonistic chewing motion, but this is different than the act of chewing cud, as it is not done for dietary purposes.

The Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis) is the only living species in the genus Procavia. The Rock Hyrax weighs about 9 pounds (4 kg) and has a short tail as well as short ears. The Rock Hyrax lives in the crevices of rocky mountains. The Rock Hyrax can be found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, except for the Congo basin and Madagascar.

The Rock Hyrax has a unique defensive behavior. The Rock Hyrax will use sentries to stand in a high place and look for predators, signaling out a call to the other members of the group when a predator is spotted. This unique defensive behavior does quite well at alerting families of Rock Hyraxes of approaching predators.

The Rock Hyrax feeds on grasses and broad leafed plants. Rock Hyraxes have also been known to eat small insects and grubs. The main predators of the Rock Hyrax are leopards, civets, pythons and large birds.

The Southern Tree Hyrax (Dendrohyrax arboreus) is grey or brown in color. Southern Tree Hyraxes reach lengths of 1 foot to 2 feet (40 cm to 70 cm) and weights of 3.25 pounds to 10 pounds (1.5 kg to 4.5 kg).

Due to its environment, the Southern Tree Hyrax is unique from the rest of the Hyraxes order. The Southern Tree Hyrax lives in trees, unlike other Hyrax, which live in dry, arid, rocky areas. Also, unlike other Hyraxes which live in family groups of 30 or 40, Southern Tree Hyraxes are rather solitary and live by themselves or in pairs.

Southern Tree Hyraxes eat many different types of vegetation, including shoots, buds, leaves, twigs and fruit. The Southern Tree Hyrax has many predators, including leopards, birds, lions, snakes, humans, and feral dogs.

Picture of the Yellow-spotted hyrax licensed under GFDL

Animals in the order Hyracoidea

Southern tree hyrax
Yellow-spotted hyrax
Rock hyrax

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