Adaptive colouration in wildebeests, part 1: large-scale conspicuous features

Most species of ungulates have certain inconspicuous features and certain conspicuous features, depending on the range/scale. In the case of wildebeests (Connochaetes), what is the overall effect at a distance and how does this differ among the various species and subspecies?

Wildebeests certainly have features of colouration adaptively conspicuous to scanning predators by day (e.g. for mearnsi see, but let us examine the various species/subspecies ( What is particularly interesting about this genus is the diverse ways in which the dark/pale contrasts have been achieved.

In gnou, conspicuous overall darkness ( and is achieved mainly by a poorly-understood anti-sheen quality of the fur, which is based on the physical structure of the hairs as much as their pigmentation. A similar anti-sheen effect also occurs in other forms of wildebeest (particularly mearnsi) but has to be weighed against a sheen effect on the hindquarters and back.

In mearnsi, there is a combination of overall darkness and a pale-looking rump (produced by sheen rather than depigmentation, see and and and fourth photo in and

In the western form of taurinus, the dark mane is permanently erect, which in combination with the dark beard and front of the face gives the anterior of the figure in profile a conspicuously dark accentuation (see

In johnstoni there is in some individuals a bold whitish (depigmented) bar on a dark-pigmented face (see and

In cooksoni, the front of the face is conspicuously dark relative to the pale forequarters (e.g. see fourth photo in

In albojubatus, the beard and cheeks are conspicuously pale relative to the dark front of the face (see and and

Returning to gnou, both the mane and the tail can be conspicuously pale. For the mane see and and and and and For the tail see and and and

Posted by milewski milewski, 09 July, 2021 00:09


The following shows that the tail of gnou can be truly white: However, this may be somewhat unnatural given that these horns are also unusually pale.

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago (Flag)

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments