Neotragus pygmaeus [Linnaeus, 1758].
- Citation: Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1:69.
- Type locality: "Guinea, India" (= west coast of Africa).
- Citation: Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1:69.
The taxonomic record (above) is taken from Wilson and Reeder (1993). Some authors eliminate the "a" in pygmaeus to form Neotragus pygmeus (see Wilson and Reeder, 1993). As one of the smallest living ungulates, it is perhaps not surprising that one initial description misidentified this species as a similarly-sized and shaped tragulid (Wilson and Reeder, 1993). The royal antelope is the only member of the subgenus Neotragus (see Nowak, 1991). The species is monotypic (no described subspecies) and has no synonyms (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).
|Reported measurements for royal antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus)|
|Source||Adult Weight||Head & Body Length||Shoulder Height||Tail Length|
|Benirschke, 2005||2.45 kg
|Happold, 1973||2-3 kg||38-51 cm||25 cm||5-8 cm|
|Kingdon, 1997||1.5-3 kg||38-51 cm||24-26 cm||5-8 cm|
|Nowak, 1991||-||50 cm||25-30.5 cm||7.5 cm|
|Owen, 1973||2.4 kg||43 cm||26 cm||5 cm|
|Walther, 1990||1.8-2.5 kg||40-50 cm||25 cm||5-8 cm|
The royal antelope has a compact build with thin, relatively long legs (Kingdon, 1997). The hind limbs are longer than forelimbs, and are typically tucked under the body, raising the hindquarters (Happold, 1973; Nowak, 1991). This provides a more streamlined shape, and enables the hind legs to provide tremendous thrusting force should the need to flee arise (Happold, 1973; Nowak, 1991). There is a white spot on the front surface of each leg, just above the hooves (Happold, 1973). N. pygmaeus lacks dewclaws (Nowak, 1991). Females have four teats (Walther, 1990; Nowak, 1991).
N. pygmaeus has no distinctive facial markings. The round, dark-brown eyes are large and preorbital glands are present (Owen, 1973; Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). The muzzle is petite and the large rhinarium is grey-pink in color (Owen, 1973; Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). The rounded ears are translucent, with the inner surface being flesh-colored (Owen, 1973; Kingdon, 1997). There is no tuft of hair on the forehead (Walther, 1990). Male royal antelope have one pair of short, conical horns (Happold, 1973; Nowak, 1991; Kingdon, 1997). Black in color and lacking any ridges, the smooth horns point backwards following the angle of forehead (Happold, 1973; Walther, 1990; Nowak, 1991). Like everything else with this species, the horns are small, growing only 1.2-2.5 cm (occasionally up to 3.5 cm) in length (Walther, 1990; Nowak, 1991).
Weaning reportedly occurs around 2 months of age (Owens, 1973; Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). A young captive observed by Owens (1973) began ruminating at four months of age and had settled into a typical ruminant feeding pattern (eating quickly while food is available, then ruminating at a later time) by six months. Sexual maturity is attained after one year of age (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). Royal antelope appear to have short life spans: Jones (1993) reports the maximum age as 6 years, 8 months for a captive individual, although as of 2010 one captive was still living at ten years old (ISIS, 2010).
Ecologically, N. pygmaeus is believed to occupy a niche similar to the closely related Bates' antelope (Neotragus batesi), from the Central African forest block (Happold, 1973). Royal antelope are preyed upon by numerous predators - virtually anything larger than its diminutive size, including raptors and large snakes (Walther, 1990). No in-depth studies have been performed with this species, in part due to its shy and secretive nature; most of the information presented on its habits is drawn from anecdotes, inferences, and supposition (Nowak, 1991; IEA, 1998).
The diet of N. pygmaeus consists of fresh leaves, buds, and shoots (Kingdon, 1997). Fruits, fungi, and flowers are fed upon less frequently, and grasses and herbs are eaten only rarely (Walther, 1990; Nowak, 1991; Kingdon, 1997). The young captive observed by Owen (1973) preferred eating Blepharis maderaspatensis and Asystasia gangetica (Acanthaceae), and Tridax procumbens (Compositae) when given free range. Other plants were eaten in limited quantities, including grasses, sedges, Vernonia cinerea (Compositae), Canscora decussara (Gentianaceae), Alternanthera (Amarantaceae), Borreria (Rubiaceae), Desmodium (Papilionaceae), Euphorbia prostrata (Euphorbiaceae), and Solenostemon ocymoides (Labiatae). Although Kingdon (1997) reported that leaves are plucked using the mouth and long tongue, Owens (1973) observed leaves to be bitten cleanly off the parent plant, with the tongue playing a very minor roll in acquiring and chewing vegetation.
Royal antelope move with a high-stepping gait, constantly flicking their tail (Happold, 1973; Kingdon, 1997). If disturbed, the first response is to crouch and hide under cover (Happold, 1973). If the threat continues to approach, royal antelope will wait until it is nearly on top of them before taking flight (Nowak, 1991). This species can move very rapidly through dense cover, dodging and twisting and disappearing quickly from view (Happold, 1973; Nowak, 1991). There are two distinct methods of fleeing, either a fast run with the body held low to the ground and the head thrust forward or using powerful high jumps (Happold, 1973; Kingdon, 1997). The long hind legs provide incredible power, and N. pygmaeus is reported to leap as far as 2.8 meters in a single bound and as high as 55 cm from a standing start (Owen, 1973; Nowak, 1991).
Countries: Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone (IUCN Antelope Specialist Group, 2008).
The genus name Neotragus is from the Greek words neos (meaning new) and tragos (a he-goat). The English word pygmy, as well as the species name pygmaeus, can be traced to the Greek word pugme, "a fist"; hence pugmaios (Greek) means "as small as a fist" (Gotch, 1995).
- Local names
Adowa [Twi] (Happold, 1973)
- Sagbene [Dyula] (Happold, 1973)
- Antilope royale (Happold, 1973)
- Kleinstböckchen (Happold, 1973)