Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

Artiodactyls and steep slopes, and a new banner for Tet Zoo


While on fieldwork recently, I got to see something that I considered pretty remarkable. A series of loud, weird shrieks alerted us to the presence of a large mammal. It emerged from foliage on the side of an impossibly steep cliff and proceeded to clamber up the slope without much difficulty. Pretty impressive. Here’s what it looked like, as seen from the other side of the valley. I’ve marked the animal with a red circle.

I don’t own a good camera, but I zoomed in as much as I could, and here’s a closer look as the animal stopped and peered back at us...

The animal - which is an artiodactyl of some sort - isn’t difficult to identify, but what do you think it is? I will say that the photos were taken in Europe. As usual, Tet Zoo dollars and emotional fulfillment to those who succeed in guessing. The vertical clambering behaviour isn’t rare or novel - you can see animals of this sort doing it any day of the week, in many locations and habitats worldwide - but it’s still impressive. An ordinary person would not consider, or find, the successful and rapid surmounting of such a steep slope an easy thing to accomplish, and remember that the average person probably assumes that a hoofed mammal is less able to climb a steep, dangerous cliff-side than is a person.

And while I’m here: hopefully, you’ve noticed by now that Tet Zoo has a new banner. The previous one (shown here) was very much provisional and merely a badly cropped version of the long, strip-like banner prepared specially for Tet Zoo ver 2. That stupid blank space at top left was there because I originally wanted to include the words as shown here, but that's not consistent with SciAm style, so a blank space was the result (yeah, it was done in a real hurry). Seeing as we’re saying goodbye to it now, I’ll briefly discuss some of things shown in the cropped version you see here. The dinosaur reconstruction is of Eotyrannus; parts of Dougal Dixon’s After Man, The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals, and Naish and Martill’s Dinosaur of the Isle of Wight are visible; frozen long-eared bats, shrews, finches and wrens are visible at bottom right; there are photos of an Asian elephant and phorusrhacid skull; and a collection of toy dendrobatid frogs and a sparrowhawk skull are visible upper-centre. So, I’ve long planned to have a new banner produced. The new one (it went live a few days ago) was created by Andrea Kőszegi (find her on facebook at Andyka Art). I’m very happy with it - dinosaurs ancient and modern, a squamate, a frog, and one of my favourite synapsids. Thank you Andy! Those looking for the production of excellent, colourful bespoke artwork might consider contacting her.

Coming soon: the ‘tree-kangaroos come first’ hypothesis.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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