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Taurotragus oryx (captive).jpg
Taurotragus oryx
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Tribe: Tragelaphini
Genus: Taurotragus
Wagner, 1855
Type species
Antilope oreas
Pallas, 1777

Taurotragus is a genus of large antelopes of the African savanna, commonly known as elands. It contains two species: the common eland T. oryx and the giant eland T. derbianus.



Giant eland

Common eland

Greater kudu

Mountain nyala



Cape bushbuck


Lesser kudu

Phylogenetic relationships of the Taurotragus species in relation to the species from a paraphyletic Tragelaphus. From combined analysis of all molecular data (Willows-Munro et.al. 2005)

Taurotragus /təˈrɒtrəɡəs/ is a genus of large African antelopes, placed under the subfamily Bovinae and family Bovidae. The genus authority is the German zoologist Johann Andreas Wagner, who first mentioned it in the journal Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur, mit Beschreibungen in 1855. [1] The name is composed of two Greek words: ταῦρος (taûros), meaning a "bull" or "bullock", [2] [3] and τράγος (trágos), meaning a "male goat"—in reference to the tuft of hair that grows in the eland's ear which resembles a goat's beard. [4]

The genus consists of two species: [1]

Common eland
(Taurotragus oryx) (Pallas, 1766)

Taurotragus oryx - young bull - Etosha 2015.jpg

Three subspecies of common eland are recognized, though their validity has been in dispute. [5] [6]

  • T. o. livingstonii(Sclater, 1864) (Livingstone's eland): Found in the Central Zambezian miombo woodlands. It has a brown pelt with up to 12 stripes.
  • T. o. oryx(Pallas, 1766) (Cape eland): Found in south and southwest Africa. The coat is tawny, and adults lose their stripes.
  • T. o. pattersonianus(Lydekker, 1906) (East African eland or Patterson's eland): Found in east Africa. Its coat can have up to 12 stripes.
Taurotragus oryxx 1.png
Giant eland
(Taurotragus derbianus) (Gray, 1847)

Taurotragus derbianus gigas.jpg

The largest antelope in the world. It has two subspecies: [7]

  • T. d. derbianus J. E. Gray, 1847 – western giant eland, found in western Africa, particularly Senegal to Mali. Its coat is rufous, and can have up to 15 stripes.
  • T. d. gigas Heuglin, 1863 – eastern giant eland, found in central to eastern Africa, particularly Cameroon to South Sudan. Its coat is sandy, and can have up to 12 stripes.
Giant eland map.png

Taurotragus is sometimes considered part of the genus Tragelaphus on the basis of molecular phylogenetics. Together with the bongo, giant eland and common eland are the only antelopes in the tribe Tragelaphini (consisting of Taurotragus and Tragelaphus) to be given a generic name other than Tragelaphus. [8] Although some authors, like Theodor Haltenorth, regarded the giant eland as conspecific with the common eland, they are generally considered two distinct species. [9]

Genetics and evolution

The eland have 31 male chromosomes and 32 female chromosomes. In a 2008 phylogenomic study of spiral-horned antelopes, chromosomal similarities were observed between cattle (Bos taurus) and eight species of spiral-horned antelopes, namely: nyala (Tragelaphus angasii), lesser kudu (T. imberbis), bongo (T. eurycerus), bushbuck (T. scriptus), greater kudu (T. strepsiceros), sitatunga (T. spekei), giant eland and common eland. It was found that chromosomes involved in centric fusions in these species used a complete set of cattle painting probes generated by laser microdissection. The study confirmed the presence of the chromosome translocation known as Robertsonian translocation (1;29), a widespread evolutionary marker common to all known tragelaphid species. [10]

An accidental mating between a male giant eland and a female kudu produced a male offspring, but it was azoospermic. Analysis showed that it completely lacked germ cells, which produce gametes. Still, the hybrid had a strong male scent and exhibited male behaviour. Chromosomal examination showed that chromosomes 1, 3, 5, 9, and 11 differed from the parental karyotypes. Notable mixed inherited traits were pointed ears as the eland's, but a bit widened like kudu's. The tail was half the length of that of an eland, with a terminal tuft of hair as in kudu. [11] Female elands can also act as surrogates for bongos. [8]

The bovid ancestors of the eland evolved approximately 20 million years ago in Africa; fossils are found throughout Africa and France but the best record appears in sub-Saharan Africa. The first members of the tribe Tragelaphini appear 6 million years in the past during the late Miocene. An extinct ancestor of the common eland (Taurotragus arkelli) appears in the Pleistocene in northern Tanzania and the first T. oryx fossil appears in the Holocene in Algeria. [8] Previous genetic studies of African savanna ungulates revealed the presence of a long-standing Pleistocene refugium in eastern and southern Africa, which also includes the giant eland. The common eland and giant eland have been estimated to have diverged about 1.6 million years ago. [12]

Differences between species

Taurotragus oryx - young bull - Etosha 2015.jpg
Common eland
Western Derby Eland (Taurotragus derbianus derbianus) 3 crop.jpg
Giant eland

Both the species of eland are large spiral-horned antelopes. Though the giant eland broadly overlaps in size with the common eland, the former is somewhat larger on average than the latter. In fact, the giant eland is the largest species of antelope in the world. [13] [14] [15] [16] Eland are sexually dimorphic, as the females are smaller than males. The two eland species are nearly similar in height, ranging from 130–180 cm (51–71 in). [17] In both species, males typically weigh 400 to 1,000 kg (880 to 2,200 lb) while females weigh 300 to 600 kg (660 to 1,320 lb). [17] [18]

The coat of the common eland is tan for females, and darker with a bluish tinge for males. [19] The giant eland is reddish-brown to chestnut. The coat of the common eland varies geographically; the eland in southern Africa lack the distinctive markings (torso stripes, markings on legs, dark garters and a spinal crest) present in those from the northern half of the continent. Similarly, the giant eland displays 8 to 12 well-defined vertical white torso stripes. In both species the coat of the males darken with age. According to zoologist Jakob Bro-Jørgensen, the colour of the male's coat can reflect the levels of androgens (male sex hormones), which are highest during rutting. [20]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bongo (antelope)</span> Species of mammal

The bongo is a herbivorous, mostly nocturnal forest ungulate. Bongos are characterised by a striking reddish-brown coat, black and white markings, white-yellow stripes and long slightly spiralled horns. They are the only tragelaphid in which both sexes have horns. They have a complex social interaction and are found in African dense forest mosaics. Native to Africa, they are the third-largest antelope in the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antelope</span> Term referring to an even-toed ruminant

The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant that are indigenous to various regions in Africa and Eurasia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bovinae</span> Subfamily of mammals

Bovines comprise a diverse group of 10 genera of medium to large-sized ungulates, including cattle, bison, African buffalo, water buffalos, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes. The evolutionary relationship between the members of the group is still debated, and their classification into loose tribes rather than formal subgroups reflects this uncertainty. General characteristics include cloven hooves and usually at least one of the sexes of a species having true horns. The largest extant bovine is the gaur.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bovidae</span> Family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

The Bovidae comprise the biological family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes cattle, bison, buffalo, antelopes, and goat-antelopes. A member of this family is called a bovid. With 143 extant species and 300 known extinct species, the family Bovidae consists of 11 major subfamilies and thirteen major tribes. The family evolved 20 million years ago, in the early Miocene.

Nyala Species of antelope

The lowland nyala or simply nyala is a spiral-horned antelope native to southern Africa. It is a species of the family Bovidae and genus Tragelaphus, previously placed in genus Nyala. It was first described in 1849 by George French Angas. The body length is 135–195 cm (53–77 in), and it weighs 55–140 kg (121–309 lb). The coat is maroon or rufous brown in females and juveniles, but grows a dark brown or slate grey, often tinged with blue, in adult males. Females and young males have ten or more white stripes on their sides. Only males have horns, 60–83 cm (24–33 in) long and yellow-tipped. It exhibits the highest sexual dimorphism among the spiral-horned antelopes. It is not to be confused with the endangered mountain nyala living in the Bale region of Ethiopia).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Four-horned antelope</span> Small antelope from Asia (Tetracerus quadricornis)

The four-horned antelope, or chousingha, is a small antelope found in India and Nepal. Its four horns distinguish it from most other bovids, which have two horns. The sole member of the genus Tetracerus, the species was first described by French zoologist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville in 1816. Three subspecies are recognised. The four-horned antelope stands nearly 55–64 centimetres (22–25 in) at the shoulder and weighs nearly 17–22 kilograms (37–49 lb). Slender with thin legs and a short tail, the four-horned antelope has a yellowish brown to reddish coat. One pair of horns is located between the ears, and the other on the forehead. The posterior horns are always longer than the anterior horns, which might be mere fur-covered studs. While the posterior horns measure 8–12 centimetres (3.1–4.7 in), the anterior ones are 2–5 centimetres (0.79–1.97 in) long.

<i>Tragelaphus</i> Genus of mammals

Tragelaphus is a genus of medium- to large-sized spiral-horned antelopes. It contains several species of bovine, all of which are relatively antelope-like. Species in this genus tend to be large sized, lightly built, have long necks and considerable sexual dimorphism. Elands, including the common eland, are embedded within this genus meaning that Taurotragus must be subsumed into Tragelaphus to avoid paraphyly. Alternatively, Taurotragus could be maintained as a separate genus, if the nyala and the lesser kudu are relocated to their own monospecific genera: respectively, Nyala and Ammelaphus. Other generic synonyms include Strepsiceros and Boocercus. The name "Tragelaphus" comes from the mythical tragelaph.

Sitatunga Species of swamp-dwelling antelope

The sitatunga or marshbuck is a swamp-dwelling antelope found throughout central Africa, centering on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, parts of Southern Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Ghana, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Gabon, the Central African Republic, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The sitatunga is confined to swampy and marshy habitats. Here they occur in tall and dense vegetation as well as seasonal swamps, marshy clearings in forests, riparian thickets and mangrove swamps.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mountain nyala</span> Species of mammal

The mountain nyala or balbok is an antelope found in high altitude woodland in a small part of central Ethiopia. It is a monotypic species first described by English naturalist Richard Lydekker in 1910. The males are typically 120–135 cm (47–53 in) tall while females stand 90–100 cm (35–39 in) at the shoulder. Males weigh 180–300 kg (400–660 lb) and females weigh 150–200 kg (330–440 lb). The coat is grey to brown, marked with two to five poorly defined white strips extending from the back to the underside, and a row of six to ten white spots. White markings are present on the face, throat and legs as well. Males have a short dark erect crest, about 10 cm (3.9 in) high, running along the middle of the back. Only males possess horns.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lesser kudu</span> Species of antelope

The lesser kudu is a bushland antelope found in East Africa. It is placed in the genus Tragelaphus and family Bovidae. It was first scientifically described by the English zoologist Edward Blyth in 1869. The head-and-body length is typically 110–140 cm (43–55 in). Males reach about 95–105 cm (37–41 in) at the shoulder, while females reach 90–100 cm (35–39 in). Males typically weigh 92–108 kg (203–238 lb) and females 56–70 kg (123–154 lb). The females and juveniles have a reddish-brown coat, while the males become yellowish grey or darker after the age of 2 years. Horns are present only on males. The spiral horns are 50–70 cm (20–28 in) long, and have two to two-and-a-half twists.

Greater kudu Species of woodland antelope

The greater kudu is a woodland antelope found throughout eastern and southern Africa. Despite occupying such widespread territory, they are sparsely populated in most areas due to declining habitat, deforestation, and poaching. The greater kudu is one of two species commonly known as kudu, the other being the lesser kudu, T. imberbis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Common eland</span> Second largest antelope in the world

The common eland, also known as the southern eland or eland antelope, is a savannah and plains antelope found in East and Southern Africa. It is a species of the family Bovidae and genus Taurotragus. An adult male is around 1.6 metres (5') tall at the shoulder and can weigh up to 942 kg (2,077 lb) with an average of 500–600 kg (1,100–1,300 lb), 340–445 kg (750–981 lb) for females). It is the second largest antelope in the world, being slightly smaller on average than the giant eland. It was scientifically described by Peter Simon Pallas in 1766.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Giant eland</span> An open-forest and savanna antelope of the family Bovidae

The giant eland, also known as the Lord Derby eland and greater eland, is an open-forest and savanna antelope. A species of the family Bovidae and genus Taurotragus, it was described in 1847 by John Edward Gray. The giant eland is the largest species of antelope, with a body length ranging from 220–290 cm (86.5–114 in). There are two subspecies: T. d. derbianus and T. d. gigas.

Roan antelope Species of mammal

The roan antelope is a savanna antelope found in western, central, and southern Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East African oryx</span> Species of mammal

The East African oryx, also known as the beisa is a species of antelope from East Africa. It has two subspecies: the common beisa oryx found in steppe and semidesert throughout the Horn of Africa and north of the Tana River, and the fringe-eared oryx south of the Tana River in southern Kenya and parts of Tanzania. In the past, some taxonomists considered it a subspecies of the gemsbok, but they are genetically distinct; the diploid chromosome count is 56 for the beisa and 58 for the gemsbok. The species is listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tragelaphini</span> Tribe of antelopes

The tribe Tragelaphini, or the spiral-horned antelopes, are bovines that are endemic to sub-Sahara Africa. These include the bushbuck, kudus, and the elands. The scientific name is in reference to the mythical creature the tragelaph, a Chimera with the body of a stag and the head of a goat. They are medium-to-large, tall, long-legged antelopes characterized by their iconic twisted horns and striking pelage coloration patterns.

Elaeophora sagitta is a parasitic nematode found in the heart, coronary arteries and pulmonary arteries of several ruminant species and African buffaloes in Africa. Infestation usually occurs without significant health effects in the Greater kudu, but may affect cardiac function in some other host species.

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Erlanger's gazelle or Neumann's gazelle,, is a small dark gazelle with a stout body and short legs. It is described from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southern miombo woodlands</span>

The Southern miombo woodlands is a tropical grasslands and woodlands ecoregion extending across portions of Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


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