|The duikers are a highly specialized and easily recognizable
subfamily. With the tropical forests of Africa being their main habitat,
duikers fill the same niche as chevrotains and muntjacs in Asia, and brocket
deer and agoutis in the Neotropics. Like these other groups, duikers have
a compact body, relatively short legs, and strong hindquarters - they rely
on short bursts of speed through dense vegetation to escape predators. Indeed,
the name duiker is Afrikaans for "diver", as these antelope dive straight
into cover at the first sign of danger. The entire evolutionary history of
this subfamily is restricted to the African continent. The fossil record
is scarce, beginning approximately 6 million years ago (although some records
indicate that this subfamily may have been present 12 million years ago).
All 18 extant species have the same body plan, but there are wide variations in size (from the 5 kg Philantomba species to the 80 kg yellow backed duiker, Cephalophus silvicultor) and extreme variations in colors and markings (as evidenced by common names: red duiker, blue duiker, black duiker, gray duiker, white-bellied duiker, yellow-backed duiker . . .). There is minimal sexual dimorphism, but (unusual in mammals) females tend to be larger than males. In the majority of species, both males and females grow horns (except for Philantomba, Sylvicapra, and Cephalophus rufilatus). The horns are among the smallest of any bovid; their small size, low angle, and position near the back of the skull reduces the chance of them becoming caught in jungle underbrush. A tuft of hair on the forehead often conceals these tiny spikes. Duikers tend to be territorial - their very large preorbital glands are used in scent marking. The glands form prominent bulges on either sides of the nose, opening into a long slit which extends well in front of the eyes.
Although duikers have a virtual monopoly on frugivory in African rainforests, several species of duikers have been recorded eating meat. Their brains are large and complex; since duikers are reliant on fallen fruits, most species are aware of canopy activity, and will often follow primates in order to eat dropped leftovers.
(From Hernandez-Fernandex and Vrba, 2005)
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