The population dynamics of the rock hyrax procavia capensis (Pallas, 1766) in the Mountain Zebra National Park

Fourie, Leon Johan (1983) The population dynamics of the rock hyrax procavia capensis (Pallas, 1766) in the Mountain Zebra National Park. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.




The chief objective of the study was to investigate the population dynamics of the hyrax in the Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP). To realise this objective information on growth, age determination, reproduction, habitat utilization, behaviour, parasites and mortality had to be gathered. The growth of hyrax in relation to age is described by means of Stevens asymptotic regression equations. Near asymptotic measurements are attained first in hind foot length (at 30-33 months of age), head/body length (at 37-39 months of age), girth (at 41-48 months of age) and body mass (at 68-70 months of age). Allometric growth of the various body measurements was investigated and useful predictive relationships for mass are presented. Age determination of hyrax was studied in detail. Cementum annuli counts provided reliable estimates of age. One primary cementum line is formed annually. The dried eye lens mass was an accurate means of age determination up to c. 72 months of age. A summary of findings which will facilitate age determination of dead animals or skulls, and live animals, is provided. Reproduction in the hyrax was studied with emphasis on breeding season, age-specific litter sizes, prenatal mortality and lactation. Male hyrax attained puberty at 15-17 months of age or one year later. Females generally attained puberty at 15-17 months of age. One female (1,4% of total shot sample for the specific age group) attained puberty at 4-5 months of age. Middle-aged hyrax had significantly larger litter sizes than younger animals. Hyrax in the MZNP feed on at least 80 different plant species belonging to 33 plant families. Crude protein of stomach contents and faecal samples showed little seasonal fluctuation implying that hyrax in the MZNP were on a stable quality diet. Female hyrax enjoyed a significantly better quality diet than males for the four month period prior to parturition and during the first two months of lactation. The crude protein values of faecal and stomach samples had a significant correlation. Body fat of male and female hyrax showed seasonal variation related to physiologically stressful periods. Seasonal differences in activity patterns were demonstrated. The basic structure of hyrax social organization is the multi-female kinship group that is matrilocal. Territorial dominant males maintain harems and exclude all other adult males. Peripheral males occupy areas on the periphery of the activity areas of other members of the hyrax colony. Peripheral males do not form bachelor groups and are normally younger than territorial males. It is suggested that territorial males are able to monopolize between 3-17 females in a successful and energetic manner. Both natal and breeding dispersal occurred, the former being considerably more extensive than the latter. The ecto- and endoparasites of hyrax were identified and their burdens quantified over a 13 month period. Juveniles had significantly larger burdens of ectoparasites than did adults. Information on age-specific mortality was obtained from skulls collected in the field and at black eagles' nests. Losses that occurred in the study population due to caracal and black eagle predation were quantified. Evidence is supplied which indicates that juvenile mortality may fluctuate markedly. The population dynamics of the hyrax population in the MZNP was studied by the use of time specific life-tables, models on population growth rates, population simulation models and sensitivity analysis. Sensitivity coefficients were used as a predictor of population regulation. Female juvenile mortality was considered to be the main regulating factor. Changes in fecundity schedule are important compensatory mechanisms and also play an important role in the regulation of a hyrax population. Predation, particularly by caracal, is thought to dampen population fluctuations.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Rock hyrax, Mountain Zebra National Park, South Africa
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology > Chordates. Vertebrates > Mammals
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Zoology & Entomology
ID Code:2387
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:25 Jan 2012 06:47
Last Modified:25 Jan 2012 06:47
42 full-text download(s) since 25 Jan 2012 06:47
42 full-text download(s) in the past 12 months
More statistics...

Repository Staff Only: item control page