Yellow-backed duiker

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Yellow-backed duiker
Cephalophus sylvicultor sylvicultor2.jpg
C. s. silvicultor at Disney's Animal Kingdom
CITES Appendix II (CITES) [2]
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Cephalophus
C. silvicultor
Binomial name
Cephalophus silvicultor
(Afzelius, 1815)
Cephalophus silvicultor.png
Distribution of yellow-backed duiker
Synonyms [3]
  • Antilope sylvicultrix(Afzelius, 1815)
  • C. punctulatus Gray, 1850
  • C. sclateri Jentink, 1901
  • C. sylvicultor Thomas, 1892

The yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) is a forest dwelling antelope in the order Artiodactyla from the family Bovidae. Yellow-backed duikers are the most widely distributed of all duikers. They are found mainly in Central and Western Africa, ranging from Senegal to Western Uganda with possibly a few in Gambia. Their range also extends southward into Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, and most of Zambia. [3]


Taxonomy and etymology

The scientific name of the yellow-backed duiker is Cephalophus silvicultor. It is the type species of Cephalophus , and placed in the subfamily Cephalophinae and family Bovidae. The species was first described by English botanist Adam Afzelius in the journal Nova Acta Regiæ Societatis Scientiarum Upsaliensis in 1815. [4] The generic name has possibly originated from the combination of the New Latin word cephal, meaning head, and the Greek word lophos, meaning crest. [5] The specific name silvicultor is composed by two Latin words: silva, meaning wood, and cultus, which relates to cultivation. This refers to its habitat. [3]

In 1981, Colin Groves and Peter Grubb identified three subgenera of Cephalophus : Cephalophula, Cephalpia and Cephalophus. They classified C. silvicultor under the third subgenus along with C. spadix (Abbott's duiker), C. dorsalis (bay duiker) and C. jentinki (Jentink's duiker). This subgenus is characterized by minimal sexual dimorphism and spotted coats (of juveniles). C. silvicultor forms a superspecies with C. spadix. [6]

Four subspecies are recognised: [7]


Skull of a yellow-backed duiker Cephalophus silvicultor 01 MWNH 751.jpg
Skull of a yellow-backed duiker

Yellow-backed duikers have a convex body shape, standing taller at the rump than the shoulders. They have very short horns, 8.5 to 21 cm (3.3 to 8.3 in) in length, [8] which are cylindrical and ribbed at the base. [3] An orange crest of hair can be found between their horns. [9] Yellow-backed duikers get their name from the characteristic patch of yellow hairs on their rump, which stand when the duiker is alarmed or feels threatened. Yellow-backed duiker females often grow to be slightly larger than males. [3] Coloration is very similar between sexes and very little sexual dimorphism exists. [9] The head-and-body length is 115 to 145 cm (45 to 57 in), with a short tail measuring 11 to 18 cm (4.3 to 7.1 in). [8] The yellow-backed duiker weighs in at about 60–80 kg, making it the largest of its genus. It has a large mouth, throat and jaw musculature. [10]


Habitat and behavior

Yellow-backed duikers are mainly forest dwelling and live in semi-deciduous forests, rain forests, riparian forests, and montane forests. However, they can be found in open bush, isolated forest islands, and clearings on the savanna as well. [3] Their convex body shape is well-suited for forest living. It allows for quick movement through thick forest and bush and is reflective of ungulates accustomed to diving quickly into the underbrush for cover. [3] In fact, duiker is the Afrikaans word for "diver." [11]

Duikers are very flighty and easily stressed, and when frightened or pursued will run almost blindly from a threat. At the Los Angeles Zoo, duikers were found to run headlong into the glass of their enclosures if startled. In captivity, duikers have been known to form stress-induced jaw abscesses. [11]

Yellow-backed duikers are active at all times of the day and night. [10] They live mainly solitarily or in couples, rarely in even small herds. [3] Their elusive habits mean that very little is known about their ecology and demography compared to other ungulates. [12]

The yellow-backed duiker can breed throughout the year, with many breeding two times each year. [8] The female gives birth to one oro (two offspring after a gestation period of 4 to 7 months). The calf remains hidden during the first week of life and is weaned at 3 to 5 months after birth. Sexual maturity happens at 12 to 18 months in the male, and at 9 to 12 months in the female. [8]

The lifespan is 10 to 12 years in the wild, while 22.5 years in the captivity. [8]


These forest dwelling antelope feed selectively on plants or plant parts such as shoots, roots, leaves, and buds, but their diet is mainly made up of fruits. [3] The yellow-backed duiker is more efficient at digesting poor quality food than most other duiker species. This allows them to eat large, low quality fruits. [10] Their diet makes them very hard to keep in captivity as most domesticated fruits are not well suited to their low fiber requirements. They are considered concentrate selectors, meaning they eat "diets relatively low in fiber, have a well developed ability to forage selectively, a rumen bypass, a rapid passage and high fermentation rate for starch, and they frequently encounter toxins." [11]

Yellow-backed duikers are one of the few antelopes that can eat meat. Occasionally, these forest antelopes will kill and eat small animals, such as birds.


Duikers are very primitive antelope which diverged early in bovid history. [9] The genus Cephalophus contains 16 African bovids of which the yellow-backed duiker is the largest. [9] Cephalophus refers to the long crest of hair found between their horns. [11] The yellow-backed duiker is most closely related to the Abbot's duiker and the Jentink's duiker. These three form the large or "giant" duikers group. [9] The yellow-backed duiker belongs to a group of morphologically, ecologically, and behaviorally convergent mammals which also includes some artiodactyls, rodents, and lagomorphs which exhibit "microcursorial adaptive syndrome." [3] This means they have tropical to subtropical distribution along with small body size, swift, cursorial locomotion, browse on high energy food, have precocial young, and a "facultatively monogamous social structure." [3]

Bushmeat hunting

Duikers are the most heavily hunted species across forested West and Central Africa. [12] It is not only a vital food source for people living close to its habitats [12] but a vital source of income as well. [10] The animal's flighty, easy-to-scare nature causes the yellow-backed duiker to freeze up in torchlight which makes them very easy to hunt at night. When the animal is stunned by torchlight, hunters can almost walk right up to it. [10] This puts the yellow-backed duiker and its relatives at major risk for overhunting. Some scientists even project that by the year 2020 they may be at serious risk. [12] IUCN currently puts the yellow-backed duiker's status at near threatened but if current trends continue, "the yellow-backed duiker's distribution will become increasingly fragmented and its status will eventually become threatened." [1] It is thought that the yellow-backed duiker may already be locally extinct in the Oban Sector of the Cross River National Park in the Oban Hills Region of Nigeria. [12] The loss of this species may have many impacts due to the yellow-backed duiker's numerous ecological responsibilities. They not only make up a main source of food for many indigenous peoples, but they also act as seed dispersing agents for various plants, and prey items for many carnivores. [12]

Related Research Articles

<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">Duiker</span> Subfamily of antelopes

A duiker is a small to medium-sized brown antelope native to sub-Saharan Africa, found in heavily wooded areas. The 22 extant species, including three sometimes considered to be subspecies of the other species, form the subfamily Cephalophinae or the tribe Cephalophini.

<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.

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

The royal antelope is a West African antelope, recognized as the world's smallest antelope. It was first described by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. It stands up to merely 25 centimetres (10 in) at the shoulder and weighs 2.5–3 kilograms (5.5–6.6 lb). A characteristic feature is the long and slender legs, with the hindlegs twice as long as the forelegs. Horns are possessed only by males; the short, smooth, spiky horns measure 2.5–3 centimetres (1.0–1.2 in) and bend backward. The soft coat is reddish to golden brown, in sharp contrast with the white ventral parts. In comparison to Bates's pygmy antelope, the royal antelope has a longer muzzle, broader lips, a smaller mouth and smaller cheek muscles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abbott's duiker</span> Species of mammal

The Abbott's duiker, also known as minde in Swahili, is a large, forest-dwelling duiker found only in a few scattered enclaves in Tanzania. It may be a subspecies of the yellow-backed duiker. It is very rare, and the first photograph of an Abbott's duiker in the wild was taken as recently as 2003.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bay duiker</span> Species of mammal

The bay duiker, also known as the black-striped duiker and the black-backed duiker, is a forest-dwelling duiker native to western and southern Africa. It was first described by British zoologist John Edward Gray in 1846. Two subspecies are identified. The bay duiker is reddish-brown and has a moderate size. Both sexes reach 44–49 cm (17–19 in) at the shoulder. The sexes do not vary considerably in their weights, either; the typical weight range for this duiker is 18–23 kg (40–51 lb). Both sexes have a pair of spiky horns, measuring 5–8 cm (2.0–3.1 in). A notable feature of this duiker is the well-pronounced solid stripe of black extending from the back of the head to the tail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black duiker</span> Species of mammal

The black duiker, also known as tuba in Dyula, is a forest-dwelling duiker found in the southern parts of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blue duiker</span> Species of mammal

The blue duiker is a small antelope found in central, southern and eastern Africa. It is the smallest duiker. The species was first described by Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg in 1789. 12 subspecies are identified. The blue duiker reaches 32–41 centimetres (13–16 in) at the shoulder and weighs 3.5–9 kilograms (7.7–19.8 lb). Sexually dimorphic, the females are slightly larger than the males. The dark tail measures slightly above 10 centimetres (3.9 in). It has short, spiky horns, around 5 centimetres (2.0 in) long and hidden in hair tufts. The subspecies show a great degree of variation in their colouration. The blue duiker bears a significant resemblance to Maxwell's duiker.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jentink's duiker</span> Species of mammal

Jentink's duiker, also known as gidi-gidi in Krio and kaikulowulei in Mende, is a forest-dwelling duiker found in the southern parts of Liberia, southwestern Côte d'Ivoire, and scattered enclaves in Sierra Leone. It is named in honor of Fredericus Anna Jentink.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Harvey's duiker</span> Species of mammal

The Harvey's red duiker is one of 19 species of duiker found in Tanzania and scattered through Kenya, southern Somalia and possibly central Ethiopia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black-fronted duiker</span> Species of mammal

The black-fronted duiker is a small antelope found in central and west-central Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maxwell's duiker</span> Species of mammal

The Maxwell's duiker is a small antelope found in western Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ogilby's duiker</span> Species of mammal

Ogilby's duiker is a small antelope found in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, southeastern Nigeria, Bioko Island and possibly Gabon. No subspecies are recognized.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Red-flanked duiker</span> Species of mammal

The red-flanked duiker is a species of small antelope found in western and central Africa in countries as far apart as Senegal and Sudan. Red-flanked duikers grow to almost 15 in (35 cm) in height and weigh up to 31 lb (14 kg). They have russet coats, with greyish-black legs and backs, and white underbellies. They feed on leaves, fallen fruits, seeds and flowers, and sometimes twigs and shoots. The adults are territorial, living in savannah and lightly wooded habitats, and the females usually produce a single offspring each year. They have lifespans of ten to fifteen years in captivity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zebra duiker</span> Species of mammal

The zebra duiker is a small antelope found primarily in Liberia, as well as the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and occasionally Guinea. They are sometimes referred to as the banded duiker or striped-back duiker. It is believed to be one of the earliest duiker species to have evolved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Red forest duiker</span> Species of mammal

The red forest duiker, Natal duiker, or Natal red duiker is a small antelope found in central to southern Africa. It is one of 22 extant species form the subfamily Cephalophinae. While the red forest duiker is very similar to the common duiker, it is smaller in size and has a distinguishing reddish coloring. Additionally, the red forest duiker favors a denser bush habitat than the common duiker. The Natal red duiker is more diurnal and less secretive than most forest duikers, so therefore it is easier for them to be observed. In 1999, red forest duikers had an estimated wild population of 42,000 individuals.

<i>Cephalophus</i> Genus of mammals

Cephalophus is a mammal genus which contains at least fifteen species of duiker, a type of small antelope.

Mont Sângbé National Park is a national park in Ivory Coast. The Encyclopædia Britannica lists it among the "principal national parks of the world". It acquired national park status in 1976.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">White-legged duiker</span> Species of mammal

The white-legged duiker is a medium-sized antelope species from the subfamily of duikers (Cephalophinae) within the family of bovids (Bovidae). It is native to Gabon and the Republic of the Congo. It was described as subspecies of the Ogilby's duiker by Peter Grubb in 1978. After a revision of the ungulates in 2011 by Colin Groves, it is now regarded as distinct species.


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  2. "Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 2022-01-14.
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  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jimoh, S; Ikyaagba, E; Alarape, A; Adeyemi, A; Waltert, M (2013). "Local depletion of two larger duikers in the Oban Hills Region, Nigeria". African Journal of Ecology. 51 (2): 228–234. doi:10.1111/aje.12027.