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Antidorcas marsupialis, male (Etosha, 2012)

Male springbok at Etosha National Park

The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a medium-sized brown and white antelope of southwestern Africa. It was first described by the German zoologist, Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann in 1780. Three subspecies have been identified. The springbok is a slender antelope with long legs and neck, and with horns present in both sexes. Males are about 75 cm (30 in) tall at the shoulder, and females nearly 72 cm (28 in). They weigh between 33 and 48 kg (73 and 106 lb) for the males and 30 and 44 kg (66 and 97 lb) for the females. The springbok has a white head and face with dark stripes extending from a corner of the eyes to the corners of the mouth.

Springbok are active mainly around dawn and dusk. Bachelor males and females form separate herds. During the rut, males establish territories. Trekbokken refers to the large-scale migration of herds of springbok seen roaming the country when large numbers of springbok inhabited the Kalahari and Karoo. Springbok often go into bouts of repeated high leaps of up to 2 m (6 ft 7 in) into the air in a practice known as pronking or stotting. Springbok are primarily browsers, switching to grazing seasonally. Springbok mate year-round, though it might peak in the rainy season. Gestation lasts 168 days, and results in the birth of a single calf. Springbok live for up to ten years. Springbok inhabit the dry inland areas of south and southwestern Africa. The springbok has been classified under the Least Concern category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). No major threats have been recognised to the long-term survival of the species. In fact, the springbok is one of the few antelope species considered to have an expanding population. Springbok are present in protected areas across their range.

The springbok is a slender antelope with long legs and neck. The head-and-body length is typically between 120 and 150 cm (47 and 59 in), and horns are present in both sexes.[5] Males are about 75 cm (30 in) tall at the shoulder, and females nearly 72 cm (28 in). Males weigh between 33 and 48 kg (73 and 106 lb) and females between 30 and 44 kg (66 and 97 lb). The tail is 14 to 28 centimetres (5.5 to 11.0 in) long. The ears are long, narrow and pointed. The length of the ears is about 15.3 to 19.5 cm (6.0 to 7.7 in) in males while in females it is 15 and 18.7 cm (5.9 and 7.4 in). There is minor sexual dimorphism, with males being only slightly larger than females and both sexes having horns.

The springbok has a white head and face with dark stripes extending from a corner of the eyes to the corners of the mouth. A dark patch marks the forehead. In juveniles the stripes and the patch are light brown. There are three variations in the color of the pelage. Springbok with normally coloured pelage have a dark reddish-brown band running horizontally from the upper forelimb to the edge of the hip, separating the dark dorsal area from the contrasting white underside. The tail (except the terminal black tuft), buttocks, the inside of the legs and the rump are white. In addition to the normal-coloured springboks there are also pure black and pure white forms, selected in some South African farms. Although born with a deep black sheen, adult black springboks develop two shades of chocolate-brown and a white marking on the face as they mature. White springbok are predominantly white with a very light brown coloured side stripe.

The skin along the middle of the dorsal side is folded in, and covered with 15.3 to 19.5 cm (6.0 to 7.7 in) long white hair erected by arrector pili muscleslying between hair follicles. This white hair is almost fully hidden in the brown pelage, until the fold opens up. This is a major feature distinguishing the antelope from gazelles. Springbok are distinguished from gazelles in several other ways. For instance, springbok have two premolar teeth in each side of each jaw, instead of three, and therefore a total of twenty eight teeth, rather than thirty. Other differences include a longer, broader and less flexible bridge to the nose in springbok, different structure of the horns, and more muscular cheeks. There are major differences in the size and weight of the subspecies. A study gathered average body measurements for the three subspecies. A. m. angolensis males stand up to 84.3 cm (33.2 in) while females stand up to 81.6 cm (32.1 in). The males weigh around 31 kg (68 lb) while females weigh 32 kg (71 lb), being slightly heavier. A. m. hofmeyri is the largest subspecies, with the average height for males being 85.7 cm (33.7 in) and for females 71.4 cm (28.1 in). The average mass for males is 42 kg (93 lb) and for females is 35 kg (77 lb). On the other hand, A. m. marsupialis is the smallest subspecies. Males are 74.9 cm (29.5 in) tall and females 72.4 cm (28.5 in) tall. Average mass for males is 31 kg (68 lb) while for females it is 27 kg (60 lb). Another study found a strong correlation between the availability of winter dietary protein and the body mass.

Springbok are active mainly around dawn and dusk, although they may feed through the day in cold weather, or through the night at particularly hot times of the year. During the summer, they sleep in the shade of trees or bushes, although they often bed down in the open when it is cooler. The social structure of the springbok is similar to that of the Thomson's gazelle. Bachelor males and females form separate herds, although mixed sex herds are also common, with a roughly 3:1 sex ratio. In the mating season, males generally form and wander in herds in search of mates. Females live with their offspring in herds, that very rarely include dominant males. Territorial males round up female herds that enter their territories and keep out the bachelors. Females may leave the herds solitarily or in groups to give birth. Mothers and fawns may gather in nursery herds separate from harem and bachelor herds. After weaning, female offspring stay with their mothers until a new young is born, while males join bachelor groups.

A study of vigilant behaviour of herds revealed that individuals on the edge of the herds tend to be more cautious, and the vigilance among them decreased with group size. Group size and distance from roads and bushes were found to have major influence on vigilance, more among the grazing springbok than among the browsers. Adults were found to be more vigilant than juveniles, with males more vigilant than females. Springbok in bushes were considered as more vulnerable to predator attacks as they could not be easily alarmed, and predators usually conceal themselves in bushes. Another study with the same objective agreed with the former on many points. This study calculated that the time spent in vigilance by springbok on the fringes of herds is roughly double that spent by those in the centre and the open. Springbok were found to be more cautious in the late mornings than at dawn or in afternoons, and more at night than in the daytime. Rates and methods of vigilance were found to vary with the aim of lowering risk from predators.

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