Günther’s dik-dik ‘frosted’ colourmorph on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch, Kenya
By Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski, Lolldaiga Hills Research Programme
Living in some of the hottest, driest and most thorny habitats of Africa, Günther’s dik-dik Madoqua guentheri occur over much of central and northern Kenya, northern Uganda, southeast South-Sudan, south and southeast Ethiopia, and most of Somalia. Laikipia’s smallest antelope (ca. 4.5 kg) occupies all of the bushlands of Lolldaiga Hills Ranch (1700-2200 m asl). Lolldaiga Hills Ranch lies at the southern limit of this antelope’s range in central Kenya.
Günther’s dik-dik overlap in central Kenya with Kirk’s dik-dik Madoqua kirkii but can be distinguished from Kirk’s dik-dik by its mobile trunk-like nose, grizzled grey tuft on the crown, and a less distinctive white eye-ring. The dorsal pelage is typically grizzled yellowish-grey to greyish-brown, varying geographically.
Günther’s dik-dik are, more than any other dik-dik, adapted to heat and desiccation. This enables them to survive in semi-arid and arid habitats. This monogamous species spends the hottest hours of the day in the shade. Airflow through the elongated muscular snout cools the blood before it is recirculated to the body. They can tolerate air temperatures of up to 40°C. They conserve moisture by producing concentrated urine and dry faecal pellets. As such, there is no need for them to drink. Günther’s dik-dik are selective browsers of foliage and fruit.
In September 2016, a camera trap on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch captured a pair of adult Günther’s dik-dik near the centre of the Ranch at 2200 m asl. Other pairs of Günther’s dik-dik have been captured at this site over the past 3 years. This pair, however, comprised a ‘typical-coloured’ adult female and a ‘frosted’ (grizzled grey) adult male.
Although this is the first record of a frosted adult male Günther’s dik-dik on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch, this colour morph is not entirely new to us. We have encountered two dik-diks of this colourmorph on Mpala Ranch, about 25 km northwest of the Lolldaiga record. Mike Roberts (pers. comm.) has observed the frosted colourmorph at Boma ya Corner, Laikipia Nature Conservancy, ca. 90 km northwest of Lolldaiga. Based on more than a thousand encounters with Günther’s dik-dik in Laikipia, we estimate that <1% of the individuals in Laikipia are of the frosted colourmorph.
In general, alternative colourmorphs in antelopes are rare in the wild. They are usually caused by a recessive gene or mutation, or are triggered by environmental conditions.
Have you seen Günther’s dik-dik that were of the frosted colourmorph? If so, please let us know where and when, and send and photograph if you have one, to firstname.lastname@example.org
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