, Volume 195, Issue 4, pp 375-386

How muscle mass is part of the fabric of behavioral ecology in East African bovids (Madoqua, Gazella, Damaliscus, Hippotragus)

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Abstract

 Tissue composition and the distribution of body mass are described for four genera of East African Bovidae (Madoqua, Gazella, Damaliscus, Hippotragus) with supporting data from four others (Neotragus, Oryx, Tragelaphus, Connochaetes). These species are high in muscle mass, an adaptation convergent with other high-speed terrestrial cursors, bounders, and saltators. The segments below the elbow/cubitus and knee/stifle/genu joints in small bovids are both lighter in percent of total body mass (8.6% TBM) and less heavily muscled (10–15% of total limb musculature) than those segments in macaques (13.6% TBM, 20–25% of the limb musculature). Bovid species differ from one another in the regional distribution of muscle mass. Madoqua kirkii (4–5 kg) concentrates muscle in the lumbar extensors and hindlimbs; large species such as Damaliscus dorcas (50–60 kg) and Hippotragus niger (160–220 kg) distribute it more evenly between the lumbar and cervical regions and between the hindlimbs and forelimbs. Gazella dorcas (10–20 kg) is quantitatively intermediate in those characteristics. The redistribution of muscle mass with increasing size correlates with the loss of axial bending of the vertebral column: in small, hindlimb dominant, ’dorsomobile’ species such as Madoqua sagittal mobility increases stride length through ’extended’ suspension; in large ’dorsostable’ species such as Damaliscus and Hippotragus the vertebral column resists bending, consequently abbreviating or omitting this non-contact phase of the gait cycle. Locomotor adaptation as it is reflected in size, shape, and musculoskeletal structure is the key to habitat choice, dietary specialization, social structure, and male agonistic behavior and, therefore, central to the fabric of behavioral ecology.

Accepted: 24 September 1996