Christmas cheer from... from... wtf?

My wife gives money to a cancer charity. She gets literature of some sort for doing this, and here's the front cover of the Christmas booklet she recently received. Why, as a Tet Zoo nerd, do I find it so funny?


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Certainly not because the deer shown are hardly model examples of family life, being lekkers, no?

By Jaime A. Headden (not verified) on 08 Nov 2009 #permalink


the deer shown

Those are not deer, those are small bovids of some sort. It looks like a Raphicerus species, maybe steenbok R. campestris?

As a wild guess, those are Royal Antelope?

And also, even a humble illustrator such as I can see the overuse of fonts etc, even though I despise typography.

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 08 Nov 2009 #permalink


Where are the horns of the lower antelope?

It could be a female; in the species in the clade Neotragini, females are hornless.

I think the people who put this together had seen that Christmas special Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Because this was filmed in the United States, the stop-motion characters look more like white-tailed deer than caribou/reindeer.

But if you look at the characters, you can see where one would mistake a steenbok for a reindeer:

In the public mind, the reindeer looks like this and not this:…

The ear markings make this appear a lot like a Madoqua (dik dik) but all these little guys look kinda the same. Dik diks are antelopes. Those are horns not antlers.

But, they are cute (and monogamous, not lekkers)

Oh, and I could be wrong about dik dik ... these snouts are a bit straight for me to be totally comfortabe, but something like this. They are not suni deer, elk, moose, white tails, caribou, or any other kind of deer I can think of, they are not pronghorns, I'm pretty sure they are not royal antelope, and they are not babies. They are adults. Oh, they are also not klipspringer.

Yeah, I'm sticking with dik dik.

Why are there gorgonopsians on a christmas greeting? Horned, modern day gorgonopsians, but gorgonopsians nonetheless.

Tee hee!

By Bradley Fierstine (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

Now there's an idea. Is there a palaeoartist in the house who could whip up a Santa's sleigh drawn by 8 gorgonopsids?

By Mike from Ottawa (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

As a reading nerd, I think the worst part about that flier is "Advance of Science". Makes it sound like something you'd get from a loan shark in a lab coat.

Also, I totally agree with Greg - I can't ever keep all those silly little antelopes straight, and I don't really understand how other people miraculously somehow can. They're all the exact same!

By Onychomys (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

Has anybody some (recent) information about the beira antilope ?
This X-mass card made me think about their plight.
Why I don't know ?

By Wilbert Friesen (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

Looks indeed like a pair of Steenbok. But what is funny? Because it's not reindeer? Kinda too obvious...

Might be Oribi, in which case the white markings around the eyes are considered to be crescent-shaped. Not appropriate for a Christian holiday greeting, perhaps?

I know, it's a stretch, but then some people assign a considerable amount of importance to such things. Case in point is the cross marking on the back of most donkeys. Once I was exercising a miniature donkey that was housed at the education center for the horse show, by walking it around the grounds, and a couple from Mexico stopped me to take photos of the cute little guy. They spoke no English, but explained to me that a donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem, and is marked with the shadow of the cross from walking away sadly from the crucifixion. Or something like that - I dunno, my Spanish isn't that great. Anyway, it was apparently meaningful and important for them. *shrugs*

I think Steinbok is right. Its not a duiker or dik dik, nor royal or dwarf antelope. There are similarities with oribi, suni, klipspringer and beira, but I'm pretty sure it is steinbok.

Since deer are traditonal on Christmas cards, a small antelope is a bit different, or it could suggest that despite the currency being in GBP the booklet may have originated in southern Africa.

Isn't there a cancer researcher, an American professor, with the surname Steinbok? Maybe that's the connection. But it seems a bit tenuous to me.

By Mark Lees (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

I'm donating to this Advancement of Science right away! If they can create free calendars kind enough to thank us personally for monetary donations, imagine what they can do with mayan ones...

By Sebastian Marquez (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

The horn shadows look strange. Two different angles and too wide where the shadows join the horns - Is this the lighting or is the picture photoshopped?

Carl, #20

When they do it to the chair it's scent marking. When they do it to you it's affection. Past a certain complexity in brain organization behaviors are not as simple as you might think. Besides, did it ever occur to you that they do it because it feels good?

(Yes, I know I'm being obscure. But as for felidae, so for bovidae.)

It being not being a deer but an antelope. A steinbok specifically.

By dinosauricon (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

Two different species in love with each other.
Romeo and Juliet
And the little girl being the dominant one.

By Wilbert Friesen (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

*channels the Zooillogix Miniature Pigs thread*

I want these cute miniature antelopes as pets. I have lots of nice grass in my backyard and how much are they please and where can I buy some?

Useless trivia question of the day: Which minor character in a famous 20th century American novel is named after a neotragine antelope?

The first to know the right answer gets 1000 Tet Zoo dollars (from Darren).

What an awesome cartoon (re: comment 28). I wondered why some of the creatures had a familiar-ish look (the tapejarid-like pterosaur in particular). I also wonder if Diaz has read Dixon's The New Dinosaurs, as that also features a creature that mimics a corpse in order to trick scavengers. Wow, those gorgonopsians sure are racking up a noble history of crazy web references...

Ok, thanks to all for comments on the Christmas picture shown at top. Many of you correctly deduced the answer: I find it amusing that whoever put the thing together said to themself "I need a picture of a cute little Christmas deer-thing"... and proceeded to go out and source a picture of two Steinbuck (or Steenbok) Raphiceras campestris, an obscure African antelope that has no discernable connection with Christmas whatsoever.

The Steinbuck is small (shoulder height 45-60 cm, mass 7-16 kg); like other neotragines, males alone have horns. These are spike-like and vertical (note to Dave Hone: the horns are polished, with no ridges or ribs or anything).

As for comment 29, isn't there a character in The Great Gastby called Klipspringer? There are other scattered references to neotragines here and there in our culture. There are places called Oribi and Beira, and I've often wondered if the sports company Reebok took its name from the antelope's (which is spelt Rhebok). As for dikdik - - ha ha.. (actually, dikdik is onomatopeic and a reference to the alarm call. The technical name Madoqua has apparently been adopted by google for a bit of software).

As for comment 29, isn't there a character in The Great Gastby called Klipspringer?

And we have a winner! (Though it's Gatsby, not Gastby...)

Incidentally, in one chapter of that book, guests who came to Mr Gatsby's parties are listed, and the guests include people with such surnames as Civet, Blackbuck, Beaver, Beluga, Roebuck, and Ferret...

I doubt I could distinguish a Steenbok from a Steinlager
if it gored me...but I did notice a striking resemblance
between the photo and the Rankin-Bass animated Rudolf
( the red-nosed reindeer. )

By craig york (not verified) on 10 Nov 2009 #permalink

Gorgonopsians with external ears?!? Boooo.

No - those aren't gorgonopsians. The gorgonopsians are long extinct in the story and you only see them as hieroglyphs, statues and skulls.

Wasn't this printed in a country where some people _who live in the countryside_ (or what USians might call "suburbia with lots of deer") are convinced that deer burrow underground for the winter?

By Jenny Islander (not verified) on 10 Nov 2009 #permalink

Certainly not because the deer shown are hardly model examples of family life, being lekkers, no?

Jaime.. that's not how to spell 'lecher'



Useless trivia question of the day: Which minor character in a famous 20th century American novel is named after a neotragine antelope?

I dunno. But, let's see, even in sci-fi alone there are such characters aplenty:

Buck Rogers.. Mr Sp'ok.. and his half-brother, Sy-bok..
not to mention Phssth'bok the Pak

Isn't 250 million years enough time for the descendents of gorgonopsians to evolve external ears? It seems they've been useful enough for our ancestors and kin that such a structure ought to be permitted to develop convergently in that time, in a related lineage.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 10 Nov 2009 #permalink

Sure, except gorgonopsians didn't even have a middle ear to begin with. That only starts in chiniquodontid cynodonts. Without a middle ear, an outer ear is useless. That's yet another layer of required convergence, and a rather complicated one.

No - those aren't gorgonopsians. The gorgonopsians are long extinct in the story and you only see them as hieroglyphs, statues and skulls.

Then what about the very first panel, and about the carnivores that cooperate with the pokemon?

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 11 Nov 2009 #permalink

David: Why are external sound focusing parts not useful without bony internal ear parts? What do birds have? I can't imagine myself, with my sophisticated mammalian bony inner ears, hearing worms underground. How do birds get along without any sort of physical amplification? Do their beaks participate?

About gorgonopsians... if every critter in the strip was derived from the gorgonopsians we know, that makes them, strictly speaking, still, gorgonopsians, just as we're all cynodonts. (Right?) But I don't see how that derivation denies to them any sort of innovation that might be useful; or, alternatively, requires any particular innovation. So we ought to be allowed throwbacks and also crazy stuff, just not too many things too obviously cribbed from the cynodont lineage. Right?

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 12 Nov 2009 #permalink

Birds have a middle ear (an air-filled cavity with a long, thin stapes that picks up vibrations from the tympanum -- directly so, unlike in mammals -- and funnels them into the inner ear). Among synapsids, only some eucynodonts (us for example) have one. The normal state of affairs is to have an immobile stapes that functions as a short, stout pillar between the braincase and the jaw joint.

I'm not sure how easy it would be for a gorgonopsian to get the stapes out of that role and change it into a sound conductor.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 13 Nov 2009 #permalink

The middle ears of mammals don't seem to be better in any way than those of birds. They're just more complicated because they are derived from not just the pillar, but the entire jaw joint, too, with the eardrum (tympanum) lying technically in the lower jaw instead of behind the skull as in birds and other crown-group diapsids.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 13 Nov 2009 #permalink

Re. 33: Steenbok is the Afrikaans (and Dutch) spelling, although steenbok is the correct Dutch name for Capra ibex and its close relatives. In the same vein reebok is the Afrikaans & Dutch spelling, and again the Dutch meaning is more Eurasian as it refers to Capreolus capreolus and Capreolus pygargus. The species itself is a ree, the buck is a reebok and the female a reegeit - in which you may recognize the goat. The sneakers people just copied the Afrikaans version.

By Frits Burghardt (not verified) on 14 Nov 2009 #permalink