Journal archives for November 2020

November 13, 2020

How to see the only type of gazelle restricted to the Persian Gulf

The Bushehr gazelle, Gazella bennettii karamii, occurs in the Persian Gulf region of Iran.

It is the westernmost form of a species which is more familiar in India, under the name chinkara. Another two subspecies occur elsewhere in Iran, going under the names eastern and western jebeer.

Although 'Indian gazelle' is used in inaturalist, Gazella bennettii is one of those species for which there is no overall common name.

Anyone curious to see what the Bushehr gazelle looks like is likely to be disappointed by any search in Google images under the common or scientific names of this animal.

Because such searches yield no results, it is easy to assume that this form of gazelle is so obscure, rare and/or remote than nobody has yet posted any photo of it on the Web. But in fact there at least 30 photos on the Web, all of them so poorly labelled that one can only find them by following indirect clues.

The best of these can be seen at https://ifpnews.com/asian-black-bear-seen-in-southeastern-Pakistan and www.riverart.net/hormoz/notes/2010/index.htm.

The reason why there are any photos of the Bushehr gazelle on the Web is that it happens to be found, relatively tame, on two scorched, barren islands visited by tourists in the straits of Hormuz: Hormuz Island and Hengam Island. But nobody who has photographed it there seems to know, or care, about its identity beyond the ignorant term 'deer'.

There are currently two photos of G. bennetti karamii in iNaturalist. However, these are easily overlooked because they seem out of place.

The Bushehr gazelle is disjunct from the main populations of its species in India, and looks like the sort of miniature of large mammals that typifies Arabia, on the other side of the Persian gulf.

If readers search Google images under Hengam, Hormuz and deer, you will find a small, nondescript gazelle which looks like an unusually plain-coloured form of the dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) of the Sahara and the Negev.

And you will have been enlightened by a Web that is full of novel and interesting photos, but often buries them by poor labelling.

Posted on November 13, 2020 05:05 by milewski milewski | 3 comments | Leave a comment

November 27, 2020

The Iranian gazelle as a possible new species in genus Gazella

@michalsloviak @simontonge @capracornelius

There is a type of gazelle (genus Gazella) in Iran, which may deserve to be recognised as a species of its own.

I suggest

  • the scientific name Gazella shikarii and the subspecies names Gazella shikarii shikarii and Gazella shikarii karamii, and
  • the common names Iranian gazelle (for the species), Kavir gazelle (for subspecies shikarii, which is restricted to the edges of the Kavir Desert), and Bushehr gazelle (for subspecies karamii, which is restricted to the semi-deserts near the Persian Gulf).

As at November 2020, there are only three photos of this postulated species in iNaturalist, viz.

  • one of a dead specimen of the Kavir gazelle, and
  • two of living adult males of the Bushehr gazelle.

However, there are dozens of photos, some of them excellent, of the Kavir gazelle on the Web, which can be sought under 'jebeer', 'gebeer', 'kavir', 'turan' and 'naybandan'.

I have been able to open the following:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Gazella_bennettii_in_Iran_01.jpg and https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/A_group_of_Gazella_bennettii_in_Iran_02.jpg and https://www.zoochat.com/community/media/indian-gazelle-chinkara.172127/ and https://www.iranjasminco.com/en_package/304_Kavir-National-Park-Safari and https://media.tehrantimes.com/d/t/2020/06/15/4/3477262.jpg and https://mapio.net/pic/p-47809730/ and https://travelartin.com/iran-desert-animals/#lg=1&slide=0 and https://www.tappersia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/98.jpg and http://www.ecocci.org/eco_chamber_news/item/6590-kavir-national-park-a-protected-zone-in-iran.

There is a good photo 'jebeer gazelle' by Fallahzadeh Wildlife Photography in https://www.visitouriran.com/blog/the-narrative-of-conservationists-and-their-efforts-in-iran/.

The website www.hadiansari.ir also contains several photos of 'gebeer' which I cannot open.

Current thinking among taxonomists has been to lump the Iranian gazelle into the Indian gazelle (Gazella bennettii).

However, this is unsatisfactory for several reasons.

Firstly, the Iranian gazelle looks as similar to the dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) of Africa as it does to the Indian gazelle.

Secondly, Groves and Grubb (2011) found no intermediates with Gazella bennettii where the ranges abut in Eastern Iran.

This lack of intermediates is despite the two subspecies of the Iranian gazelle being contiguous with the Indian gazelle (which is called 'eastern jebeer' in Iran), while being separated from each other by the main mountain chain of Iran.

The Kavir gazelle can be recognised by a combination of the following features.

  • The horns of males bow outwards more than in the Indian gazelle, while the horns of females are remarkably long.
  • The ears are proportionately larger than in the other gazelles of Iran.
  • There is less banding of the flank than in any other gazelle.
  • The pale ventral part of the torso is white, not smudged as in both the Indian gazelle and the goitred gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) of Iran.
  • The dark spot on the front of the face is hardly noticeable.
  • There is surprising uniformity of colouration, in contrast to the obvious individual variation found in most other types of gazelle.

It is likely that the taxonomic status of gazelles will continue to be argued, this way or that.

However, I offer naturalists a refreshed search image.

Recognising the distinctiveness of the Iranian gazelle may help it to be brought to the full light that such a graceful antelope deserves - beyond its current main interest as one of the few prey species remaining for the endangered cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) in Iran.

Posted on November 27, 2020 21:25 by milewski milewski | 5 comments | Leave a comment