A gazelle is an antelope of the genus Gazella. Gazelles are known as swift animals; they are able to reach high speeds for long periods of time. Gazelles are mostly found in the grasslands and savannas of Africa, but they are also found in southwest Asia. They tend to live in herds and will eat less coarse, easily digestible plants and leaves.
The gazelle species are classified as part of the order Artiodactyla,
family Bovidae and genus Gazella. Members of the Articodacycla order
are principally distinguished by the foot; they have an even number
of toes (The bovid family comprises 6 genera and 12 species.) The
taxonomy of the genus Gazella is a confused one, and the
classification of species and subspecies has been an unsettled
issue. Three species—the Red Gazelle, the Arabian Gazelle, and the
Queen of Sheba's Gazelle—are extinct. All other gazelle species are
listed as endangered, to varying degrees.
A recognizable example of the gazelle is Thomson's Gazelle (Gazella thomsonii), which is around 60 to 90 cm in height at the shoulder and is colored brown and white with a distinguishing black stripe (as in the picture on the right). The males have long, often curved, horns. Tommies, as they are familiarly called, exhibit a distinctive behavior of stotting (running slowly and jumping high before fleeing) when they are threatened by predators such as lions or cheetahs. This is a primary piece of evidence for the handicap principle advanced by Amotz Zahavi in the study of animal communication and behavior.
Fossils of genus Gazella are found in Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits of Eurasia and Africa. The tiny Gazella borbonica is one of the earliest European gazelles, characterized by its small size and short legs. Gazelles disappeared from Europe at the start of Ice Age, but they survived in Africa and Middle East. Three species become extinct in recent times due to human causes
This Gazelle Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub