As soon as rock hyrax babies are born they look like miniature adults – with their eyes and ears open and with the same coat - but despite being small in stature, the species actually has an incredible genetic link to the elephant.
Assistant curator of mammals at Chester Zoo Nick Davis said: “It’s quite an oddity but rock hyraxes and elephants share a number of common features.
“For example a small mammal would typically go through a short gestation period but the rock hyrax is different, with pregnancies lasting over seven months (245 days) – highlighting a connection to their much larger relatives.
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“There are also other physical similarities between the two species, such as the shape of their feet and their continually growing incisors, which are reminiscent of an elephant’s tusks.”
The species lives primarily in Africa and the Arabian peninsula where it is known natively as a ‘dassie’ or ‘rock rabbit’.
As their name indicates, rock hyraxes occupy habitats dominated by rocks and large boulders, including mountain cliffs, where they use their moist and rubber-like soles to gain a good grip to clamber around steep slopes.
Rock hyraxes - the facts
- The species' Latin name is Procavia capensis
- In some areas, such as Egypt, the rock hyrax has been killed for food
- Hyraxes are a vocal species and produce an episode of ‘harsh yips’ which build up to ‘grunts’ to defend its territory
- Hyraxes don’t need much water because they get most of it from their food
- Rock hyraxes have excellent eye sight