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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.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik Madoqua guentheri, Mount Forole, Kenya-Ethiopia border.  Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik Madoqua guentheri, Mount Forole, Kenya-Ethiopia border.  Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik, South Turkana National Reserve, northwestern Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik, South Turkana National Reserve, northwestern Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Soita Nyiro Conservancy, Laikipia, central Kenya. Photograph by Tom Butynski & Yvonne de Jong.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Soita Nyiro Conservancy, Laikipia, central Kenya. Photograph by Tom Butynski & Yvonne de Jong.

Adult male Kirk’s dik-dik Madoqua kirkii, Meru National Park, central Kenya. Note the relatively short muzzle and wide white eye-ring. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong.

Adult male Kirk’s dik-dik Madoqua kirkii, Meru National Park, central Kenya. Note the relatively short muzzle and wide white eye-ring. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong.

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.

Subadult male Günther’s dik-dik, east of Lake Bogoria, central Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Subadult male Günther’s dik-dik, east of Lake Bogoria, central Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Old (left) and fresh (right) dung pellets of Günther’s dik-dik, Turkana County, northwest Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Old (left) and fresh (right) dung pellets of Günther’s dik-dik, Turkana County, northwest Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Mount Forole, Kenya-Ethiopia border. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Mount Forole, Kenya-Ethiopia border. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Kirk’s dik-dik, Samburu National Reserve, central Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Kirk’s dik-dik, Samburu National Reserve, central Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Kirk’s dik-dik Garissa, central east Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Adult male Kirk’s dik-dik Garissa, central east Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

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.

‘Typical-coloured’ adult female (left) and ‘frosted’ (grizzled grey) adult male (right) Günther’s dik-dik, Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Image by ZSL/LHRP camera trap.

‘Typical-coloured’ adult female (left) and ‘frosted’ (grizzled grey) adult male (right) Günther’s dik-dik, Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Photograph by ZSL/LHRP camera trap.

Frosted adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Image by ZSL/LHRP camera trap.

Frosted adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Photograph by ZSL/LHRP camera trap.

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 yvonne@lolldaiga.com

Frosted adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Boma ya Corner, Laikipia Nature Conservancy, western Laikipia. Photograph by Mike Roberts.

Frosted adult male Günther’s dik-dik, Boma ya Corner, Laikipia Nature Conservancy, western Laikipia. Photograph by Mike Roberts.

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