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  • Specimen of the Week 222: Dik-dik skull

    By Dean W Veall, on 11 January 2016

    LDUCZ-Z709 dik-dik (Madoqua sp. )skull

    LDUCZ-Z709 dik-dik (Madoqua sp. )skull


    All the 2s, two hundred and twenty two. Dean Veall here,  I’ve secretly harboured a desire to be a bingo caller and with that opening I got to live out a little bit of that fantasy (imagine booming tones as you read it). Whilst we’re on sounds, and moving away from the sounds I produce, this week’s Specimen of the Week is named after the distinctive call sound it makes when alarmed. It also has a pretty awesome prehensile nose, is tinnyyyyy (for an antelope) and the species this specimen belongs to surely deserves the mantle of the world’s prettiest animal. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…..


    **Dik-dik (Madoqua sp). skull**

    1). Animal Showoff

    Here at the Museum I’m currently planning our next Animal Showoff event for March (shameless plug, tickets can be booked here), the anarchic night where researchers showoff for nine minutes about their an animal of their choice. I’ve always been an antelope fan and if I had to choose an animal to showoff about it would have been the equally nasally distinctive Saiga antelope, unfortunately, we’ve not got any in the collection but we do have what is challenging the Saiga for a place in my heart as best antelope in the world, this beaut of an animal, the dik-dik…..

    LDUCZ-Z709 dik-dik (Madoqua sp. )skull

    LDUCZ-Z709 dik-dik (Madoqua sp. )skull

    2). What’s in a name?

    These small antelopes get their name from the sound they call as they escape predation by any animal larger than their diminutive 40cm height (lions, eagles, jackals, caracals, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, cape hunting dogs, honey badgers, crocodiles and pythons, basically a carnivore in Africa). Whilst fleeing they make a ‘zik-zik’ or ‘dik-dik’ sound with their noses, listen real hard below and you can just make out the sound…..


    When fleeing they do so in zig-zag leaps to confuse the predator and can reach a phenonmenal speed of 42mph when in true flight.

    3). Cute factor set to stun….

    Image obtained from "Dik-dik (male) -Tarangire National Park -Tanzania" by Pedro Gonnet - Own work, transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons - taken by Pedro Gennot

    Image obtained from “Dik-dik (male) -Tarangire National Park -Tanzania” by Pedro Gonnet – Own work, transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via wikimedia.commons

    I’ll leave this image just here. Cute. Just so cute. And just when you thought we’ve reached optimal cuteness, let me tell you what they make their terriotory with, tears, yes actual tears.

    4). But there are other fluids and secretions involved

    That last sentence wasn’t technically correct, it’s not tears. Males are fiercly territorial and will mark plant stalks in their territory with a secretion from their preorbital gland. But this behaviour is very much a culmination of a behaviour that is refered to as a ‘defecation ceremony’.  The ceremony begins with the female defecating and urinating in a certain site with a male directly behind who will then sniff the deposits, curl his upper lip and bare his teeth. Turning around on the spot several times he will then smear his forelegs with her faeces before leaving his own deposits. And then he will mark the plants with his ‘tears‘. Like I said, cute.


    5). Which dik-dik is our dik-dik?

    Our dik-dik is only identified to genus level (Madoqua sp.)  and with these blogs us here at Team Grant like to take opportunities to try and update our catalogue, so I thought I might be able to try and identify this dik-dik to a species, how hard can it be, there are only four species of dik-dik. Two species can automatically be discounted on account they are only found in the shrubland of the Horn of Africa (Salt’s, M. saltiana, and the silver dik-dik, M. piacentinii) and according to our catalogue our specimen was collected in March 1950 from the Karamoja region of Uganda. This would leave either Gunther’s (Madoqua guentheri) or Kirk’s (Madoqua kirkii) as the species this specimen belongs. A further piece of the puzzle is the label on the specimen, ‘Damara dik-dik’, this is a synonym for Kirk’s dik-dik, which would make sense as the out of the two species to be present in Namibia (Damara denoting inhabitants of Namibia) is Kirk’s. But our specimen was collected in the furthest eastern region on Uganda bordering Kenya, within the range of the Gunther’s dik-dik, but wait, there’s more, Kirk’s dik-dik is not a single species but a group of species known as a complex made up of four different sub-species. So today I can exclusively reveal that speimen Z709 belongs to….. Madoqua kirkii cavendishi or Cavendish’s dik-dik. Boom! I thank you!


    6. Lost you there did I? Have another cute dik-dik

    "Madoqua kirkii - male (Namutoni)" by Yathin S Krishnappa - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

    “Madoqua kirkii – male (Namutoni)” by Yathin S Krishnappa – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia commons

    Dean Veall is Learning and Acces Officer at the Grant Museum of Zoology

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