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Seasonal behavioural patterns of free-living rock hyrax (Procavia capensis)

Authors

  • Kelly J. Brown,

    1. School of Botany and Zoology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, 3209, South Africa
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  • Colleen T. Downs

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Botany and Zoology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, 3209, South Africa
      * All correspondence to: C. T. Downs. E-mail: downs@ukzn.ac.za
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* All correspondence to: C. T. Downs. E-mail: downs@ukzn.ac.za

Abstract

The behavioural use of rock crevices by rock hyrax Procavia capensis was essential in avoiding harsh environmental conditions during summer. Foraging was the most dominant above-ground behaviour exhibited by rock hyrax during summer. Most ambient temperatures in the early morning of summer fell within the rock hyrax thermoneutral zone, which enabled the animals to forage without the need for prior heating from a solar energy source. Basking was an essential behaviour displayed by rock hyrax in winter. The low quality and scarce food source may be inadequate to meet the metabolic requirements of rock hyrax at low ambient temperatures. It therefore seems that basking is not only an energy conservation mechanism but also essential for the survival of rock hyrax during winter. Juvenile rock hyrax have a higher surface area to volume ratio and are more vulnerable to low ambient conditions than adults. As a result they displayed a different behaviour pattern to adult rock hyrax during winter. Juveniles required larger amounts of food to meet their energetic requirements, while adults spent greater amounts of time basking. The extent to which rock hyrax meet energetic requirements depends on the interaction of ambient temperature, food availability, food quality and foraging efficiency in the presence of predators. The extent to which each of these factors influenced behaviour differed on a daily and seasonal basis.

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