Thursday, 17 January 2013

From the Wild: Beautiful Butterflies and Curious Hyraxes

The 18th Species of Butterfly found on the farm

Dickson's geranium bronze underside (Cacyreus dicksoni)

Dull copper with unusual pink underside (Aloeides pierus)

Dwarf sandman underside (Spialia nanus)

Fanie Rautenbach was here for his 4th visit to Fynbos and wrote us the following.

Hope you are well and that 2013 is a good year for you and Johan and Fynbos estate.
I did have a nice walk again up the mountain. I saw 13 species, 11 of which I managed to photograph. 12 of the 13 species are ones that I have recorded before but there is a new one called the Dickson's geranium bronze (photo attached). It differs from the common geranium bronze in that it looks more white on the underside. I have also attached photos that I took on the day of a dull copper with an unusual "pink" underside (normally they are brown) and a dwarf sandman that was posing nicely with its underside. 
It is nearly Feb/Mar, time for the scarce mountain copper to fly so I will come and look for it again. 

If my count is correct I think we are on 18 butterfly species which is good for the 4 visits I made during 2012. Hopefully we can add more in 2013. There are still some areas that I need to explore.
- Fanie

The  increase of  Hyraxes (Dassies) on the farm and their close relationship to  Elephants.

Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis)

While Fanie was up the mountain, he spotted two shy rock hyrax (dassies), who were curious to see what he was up to.  We have in fact spotted a few of them over the last months - which is very heartening, as 15 years ago, when we first arrived, they had virtually all been shot out by local teenagers. This was not simply detrimental to the dassie population, but since dassies are a staple food of the black eagle, the latter had also decreased across the whole Paardeberg.  Happily black eagles are back, not only on the mountain, but on Fynbos itself where they nest.

Hyraxes (from Greek ὕραξ "shrewmouse") are often mistaken for rodents, but in actuality are mammals whose antecedents date back 37 million years. They show several early mammalian characteristics; in particular, they have poorly developed internal temperature regulation (which they deal with by huddling together for warmth and by basking in the sun like reptiles)
Hyraxes inhabit rocky terrain across sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Their feet have rubbery pads with numerous sweat glands, which help their grip when moving fast up steep, rocky surfaces. They also have efficient kidneys retaining water so they can survive in arid environments.
Female hyraxes give birth to up to four young after a gestation period of between seven and eight months, depending on the species. The young are weaned at one to five months of age, and reach sexual maturity at 16 to 17 months.
Hyraxes live in family groups who forage together on plants and insects and are dominated by a single male who aggressively defends the territory from rivals. Their most striking behaviour is the use of sentries: one or more animals take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators.
And most intriguing of all, is the fact that DNA evidence supports the hypothesis that hyraxes are closely related to elephants with whom they share numerous characteristics – such as toenails, excellent hearing, sensitive pads on their feet, small tusks, good memory, high brain functions compared to other similar mammals, and the shape of some of their bones. Also, males have withdrawn scrotums like elephants and female hyraxes have a pair of teats near their shoulders, as well as four teats in their groin.

No comments: