Photo of the Day #2: Female Okapi


The photo I posted yesterday of a male Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) has prompted some discussion about other long-necked artiodactyls, especially the living representatives of the family Giraffidae. Although the family once contained more members (like the oddly-ornamented Sivatherium), only the Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) and the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) are extant. Pictured above is a female Okapi at the Bronx Zoo, the distinction between the sexes being easily distinguished as the female lacks the skin-covered protrusions made of ossified cartilage known as "ossicones" that are prominent in the male.

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Even though the Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) most readily comes to mind when I think of a long-necked mammal, there are many other living artiodactyls that have long necks for their body size, one of my favorites being the Gerenuk, Litocranius walleri. Gerenuks are most commonly seen in East…
Giraffine giraffes (that is, the giraffid clade that includes Giraffa and its closest relatives) are famous for being long necked, with the usual explanation for the neck being that it evolved to enable these animals to avoid competing with other browsers. But for this assumption to be…
If you visit zoos often enough, you'll probably eventually see at least one pair of animals mating with each other. While I didn't actually see the two gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) in flagrante delicto, the male chased the female around a bit with that intention. Much like a cat in heat, the…
A giraffe, photographed at the Bronx zoo.For me, no visit to the zoo is complete without stopping by to see the giraffes. They are among the most common of zoo animals, certainly, but I still find them fascinating. If giraffes did not actually exist and someone drew an illustration of one as a…

Okapi!!! This made my morning. Thanks, Brian. My dad loves okapis, too, and he always calls them examples of "evolution in action." This isn't really true, given that okapis are the chimpanzees of the giraffe family (if giraffes evolved from okapis, why are there still okapis?). But I think he must be talking about the zebra stripes on the okapi's legs. Although, obviously, okapis aren't related to zebras, and they're not turning into zebras, so...maybe he thinks that in a million years, okapis will be fully striped like zebras.

You're welcome Zach; I thought you'd like it. I know I have some shots of the male around, too, but I think it's on my other computer.

Okapis evolved from a common ancestor with the extant Giraffe, although it might represent a more basal form (giraffes didn't evolve from the living Okapi just as we didn't evolve from chimpanzees). If stripes are your game, tell your dad to read up on the Quagga, an extinct (sort of?) zebra-relative that was only partly striped. I said "sort of" because there have been efforts to recreate the Quagga in a breeding back program of living zebras, but whether the Quagga-look-alikes really deserve the name is controversial.

Funnily enough, the okapi first hit the scientific literature in 1901 as Equus johnstoni. It seemingly didn't take long for it to be recognised as not a horse, because the name Okapia appeared in the same year.

I know we didn't evolve from chimps! I was just making a bad joke about creation arguments against evolution. And I've heard much of the Quagga and breeding-back techniques to uncover a common ancestor. Isn't the "quicken" (a quail and a chicken) the same kind of thing?

If I'm not wrong, and IIRC, DNA evidence points to the quagga and the extant Plains Zebra being the same species anyway.

Oh, and I'd love to see an Okapi in the flesh one day! You'd think that a supposedly world-class zoo in a wealthy tropical country would jump at any chance to bring one in, but no...

One thing I've found extremely fascinating is how the giraffids seemed to have had their heyday in the Miocene, only to give way to bovids and eventually have their range entirely restricted to Africa. And it's a real pity that the even more biarre samotheres and sivatheres did not survive to the Holocene.

do you think the quagga should be restored and why