The elusive and peculiar Okapi, Okapia johnstoni,
a relative of the giraffe that dwells in dense rainforests.
Image: Denver Zoo.
One of my favorite mammals is the little-known relative of the giraffe; the shy and retiring okapi. This peculiar animal, which is approximately the size of a horse, is so rare and elusive that no one really knows how many remain throughout all of its range in Africa.
So imagine the delight of scientists when they recently found evidence that this animal still lives in part of its range where it was thought to be extinct because it had not been seen since 1959. Okapi tracks and other signs were found in a rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, which has been experiencing a bloody civil war along with rampant poaching of wildlife.
In 1901, the "o'api" was described by Sir Harry H. Johnston from several pieces of skins and was misidentified as a horse, and named Equus johnstoni. Later, a complete skin and two skulls were obtained and the okapi was correctly identified as a relative of the giraffe and renamed Okapia johnstoni.
There are a few okapi in zoos around the world, but they have proven difficult to breed in captivity.
Amazing fact: The okapi has been the subject of research ever since chromosome studies revealed that individuals with 2n=45 were more common than those having the expected 2n=46. This anomaly has been related to the Robertsonian translocation, or fusion, phenomenon, where the telomeres of two distinct chromosomes fuse to form one, thereby reducing the total number of chromosomes by one (Bodmer 1992). [Note: this is the most common cause of familial Down syndrome in humans]
I got really excited when I read this news. This is also one of my favourite mammals of all time.
Isn't chromosome fusing also the explanation why humans have 23 pairs while the other great apes have 24 pairs? 2a and 2b fused to become the human 2?
I often wondered how such a difference between species would happen, but the okapi example shows (I assume) that the difference could survive within a single species. Thus, I assume an ancestral human population with the mix had humans evolve from the one of the mix, while the other mix presumably died out.
this so cool! sorry i have nothing but exhuberance to add, but its sincere :)
I hate to add my ME TOO! but I remember the first time I saw an Okapi, it was love at first sight. I am crazy for giraffes and to think there is a cousin to the giraffe out there. well it boggles my mind.
There are okapi at the Copenhagen zoo. Unfortunately one of them died a few years ago as a result of an open air opera going on close to the zoo - okapi have very sensitive ears, and the shock of the opera noice killed the poor animal.
Now they are protected against the noise, when there is open air opera.
now tell me their is no GOD. THE LOVE AND INTELLIGENCE OF THE MIGHTY ONE IS SO MAGNIFICENT. REMEMBER, WE ONLY USE 1/5 OF OUR BRAIN CAPACITY. HE HAS PUT IT IN OUR HEAD, BUT FOR WHAT EVER THE REASON WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO BRING IT INTO USE. AS EVIL AS MANKIND IS, IT'S GOOD THAT WE CAN'T CALL ALL THAT KNOWLEDGE UP. THE COUSIN TO THE GIRAFFE IS MAGNIFICENT ALSO.