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Wildebeest
Blue Wildebeest, Mikumi National Park, Tanzania
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Connochaetes
Lichtenstein, 1812
Species

Connochaetes gnou
Connochaetes taurinus

The wildebeest (plural wildebeest, wildebeests or wildebai), also called the gnu (pronounced /ˈnuː/[1] or /ˈnjuː/)[2], is an antelope of the genus Connochaetes. It is a hooved (ungulate) mammal. Wildebeest is Dutch for "wild beast".

Connochaetes includes two species, both native to Africa: the Black Wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu (C. gnou), and the Blue Wildebeest, or brindled gnu (C. taurinus). Gnus belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, and other even-toed horned ungulates.

Wildebeest grow to 4 ft 2 in (1.27 m) to 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m) at the shoulder and weigh 265–600 lb (120–272 kg). They inhabit the plains and open woodlands of Africa, especially the Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tanzania, and Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. Wildebeest can live more than 20 years.

Wildebeest are well known for their annual migration to new pastures. Many wildlife documentaries have featured this event, in which vast numbers of wildebeest can be seen crossing rivers, such as the Mara River and dying in large numbers as they attempt to reach the other side, because many of them are eaten by crocodiles while others simply drown. Although it is commonly assumed that this is simply a frenzy and that the wildebeest cross blindly, recent research has shown that a herd of gnu possesses what is known as a "swarm intelligence", whereby the animals systematically explore and overcome the obstacle as one.[citation needed] Wildebeest have an apparent maximum running speed of around 64 km/h (40 mph).[citation needed]

The major predators that prey on Wildebeest are lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, and crocodiles, who seem to favor the Wildebeest. However, Wildebeest are very strong and can inflict considerable injury to even a lion. The primary defensive tactic is herding where the young animals are protected by the older larger ones while the herd runs as a group. Typically the predators attempt to cut out a young or ill animal and attack without having to worry about the herd. Wildebeest have developed some additional sophisticated cooperative behavior and scientists are unsure how much is learned behaviorally and how much is hard wired into the DNA of the animal. For example, at night the animals will take turns sleeping while others stand guard against a night attack by invading predators.

References

  1. ^ "gnu". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  2. ^ [1]

External links


Simple English

This page talks about animals in Africa. For the GNU project (computer science), see GNU.
Wildebeest
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Connochaetes
Lichtenstein, 1812

A wildebeest (also called Gnu) is an animal. It is a large hoofed mammal, that is part of the Bovidae familiy of animals. There are two species of wildebeest. Both live in Africa.

Contents

Taxonomy

  • Genus Connochaetes
    • Blue Wildebeest or Brindled Gnu (Connochaetes taurinus)
    • Black Wildebeest or White-tailed Gnu (Connochaetes gnou)

Size

Wildebeest grow to 1.15 to 1.40 metres (at the shoulder) and they weigh between 150 and 250 kilograms when they are fully grown. They live in the plains and open woodlands in southern Africa. The biggest herds can be found in the Serengeti desert. (see below) Wildebeest can live for more than 20 years.

What they eat

Like other members of the same family (antelopes, deer and goats, amongst others), they mainly eat grass (scientists call such animals Herbivores, which means: eating grass). But since in the African grasslands, there is not always grass, wildebeest are forced to wander (Scientists speak about migrations) to find food all year round. In May, about 1.5 million animals move from the grasslands to the woods. In November they move back; there is grass in the plains in summer.

Breeding and mating season

The cows (the female Gnus) will calve (give birth to the young) in summer in the plains. After the females have given birth, the breeding season begins. The dominant males mark off (and defend) some territory. They do this with feces, and with scent.

Wildebeest are an important part of the ecosystem. With their dung, they fertilize the ground, and their trampling is good for new growth. They also provide food for predators, like lions and hyenas.

Other pages

  • Catoblepas (a legendary creature based on the wildebeest)

References

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Other websites

Look up Connochaetes in Wikispecies, a directory of species







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