Guenther’s dik-dik (Madoqua guentheri)

Standing just over a foot (30 cm) tall, Guenther’s dik-dik (Madoqua guentheri) are miniature antelopes that have a very distinctive appearance, with their long noses, big eyes, tufted topknot, and long back legs. The ability of Guenther’s dik-diks to survive without access to water makes them perfectly suited for life in the heat. Of all ungulate mammals ever studied, the dik-dik’s body makes the most economical use of water. Even its pronounced nose decreases water loss and cools the blood going to the brain.

Their hindquarters are usually located at the same level or higher than the shoulder. Their pelage is soft, with coloration ranging from yellowish gray to reddish brown on the dorsal side and white to grayish on the ventral. They have a short tail (3 to 5 cm long) which is hairy on the dorsal side and naked on the ventral side.

Males have black horns that are short (up to 9.8 cm long) and are either straight or curved backward from the profile. These horns become more circular towards the tips and are ringed. Sometimes they are hidden by a tuft of hair on the forehead.

Their eyes are large and black. Eyelids and preorbital glands are also black. The ears of dik-diks are large and white on the inside. Their legs are slender and long, with black hooves pointed anteriorly. Accessory hooves are diminutive. Since the females are larger and do not possess horns, Guenther’s dik-dik are sexually dimorphic. Both sexes have a crest of hair, but the crest of males is typically more brightly colored and longer.

Another distinguishing feature of Guenther’s dik-diks are their elongated snout that can be turned in all directions. Madoqua guentheri can be distinguished from a similar species, Madoqua kirkii, by their longer nose. This snout results in reduced nasal and premaxillary bones. It is thought that their nose is a thermoregulatory device. Arterial blood is diverted to membranes in the snout and, through an evaporative process, is cooled.

This pretty, small antelope is found in the dry savanna in and around Kidepo Valley.

Guenther's dik-dik Madoqua guentheri Uganda

Behavior

Dik-diks are territorial and mark their boundaries with dung and scent. Fights, particularly among neighboring males, occur along these boundaries, although they are mostly ceremonial and rarely involve actual physical contact. Females defend their regions as well, behavior that is very rare in female antelopes.

Not having to worry about water allows dik-diks to live in small territories that remain stable and constant for many years. This gives them an advantage over predators, as dik-diks can use their intimate knowledge of their territories and their speed to escape attack.

Due to the extreme heat, dik-diks are most active in the early morning and in the evening; they spend the heat of the day resting in the shade. During the day, they stay within their territories; at night, pairs may venture out to find food. Grazing during the coolest parts of the day allows dik-diks to eat leaves when they contain the highest possible amount of water. Because they can extract all the water their bodies need from these water-plump plants, they do not need access to other water sources. When they do drink, which is rare, they lap water like a cat.

Guenther's dik-dik Madoqua guentheri Uganda

Because of their short stature, dik-diks are limited in how high they can browse. However, they have learned that by sticking close to larger animals, such as greater kudus, elephants, and giraffes, they can expand their diet. They simply wait for their tall friends to break off branches and leaves. This help is especially important during the dry season, when dik-diks otherwise would have to rely mainly on fallen leaves and flowers for food.

In Uganda, Guenther’s dik-dik is found in the dry savanna in and around Kidepo Valley.

References

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