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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

28.02.2012

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)


Scientific classification 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Hippopotamidae
Genus: Hippopotamus
Species: Hippopotamus amphibius

Description

The name hippopotamus means "river horse". The hippopotamus is an extremely large creature with a round body, short legs, and a big, broad head. Its head and body measures 2.8 to 4.2 m; its tail, 35 to 50 cm and it can weigh 2,268 to 3,629 kg. It is brownish gray on top and has a light pink color underneath. The hippopotamus has its ears, nose, and eyes positioned on the top of its head so it can remain submerged and still keep track of what is going on around it. The hippopotamus spends most of the day in the water and secretes a pink, oily substance that acts as a sunscreen. When it submerges it closed its nostrils and its ears so water won't get in. The hippopotamus is very buoyant and has no trouble getting around underwater. A hippopotamus can stay underwater for about 15 minutes and spends up to 16 hours a day in water. It can live up to 40 years.

Geographic Range and Habitat

The hippopotamus lives in West, Central, East and South Africa, but the only large populations are in the Nile river valley of East Africa. They live with other animals in Africa such as lions, hyenas, crocodiles, leopards, fish, and other small water dwelling organisms.  The niche that hippos occupy include a source of freshwater during the day, and grassland to graze in at night.

 Their habit consists of a water region (usually the Nile River) where they spend most of their day to escape the heat, and grassland nearby where they forge for grasses at night.  Grasslands are abundant in Africa and makes up 1/3 of their land. Temperatures are extremely hot so they have several adaptations in order to survive the heat.

Behavior

Hippopotamuses live in groups of 15 or more animals. These groups are primarily females and their young headed up by a dominant male. There may also be some inferior males in these groups. The hippopotamus is territorial and once it establishes its territory it will attempt to chase off any intruders. When a hippopotamus opens its mouth very wide it may be trying to scare a potential rival away by showing off its canine teeth. These teeth can be nearly 51cm long. During a fight, male hippopotamuses will ram each other with their mouths open using their heads as sledgehammers, which brings their canines into play, and using their lower jaw to throw water at each other.

Diet

The hippopotamus is herbivorous. They come out of the water at night to graze and can eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation in one night. Hippopotamuses will often travel up to six miles from their watering hole to find something to eat.

Breeding

Males reach sexual maturity between 6 and 14 years of age and breed with several females in their territory.  Females can breed at 7-15 years and usually reproduce every two years. They are capable of breeding year round, but they mostly breed seasonally during dry times in February and August.  Reproduction takes place in the water. The female hippo goes through three days of estrus (heat) where she is most fertile and mates with a male hippopotamus.

Most calves are born in the water, but some can be born on land. They are typically born during the rainy months 8 months (240 days) after conception and weigh 27-50 kilograms.  The calves nurse underwater for the first 6-8 months and are seen riding on their mothers' backs during the day.  Mothers are very protective of their calves, which stay by the mother’s side for 5-8 years.

Conservation Status

Although the hippo is not yet endangered, its habitat has been greatly reduced over the last 200 years. Once common to all of Africa, hippos are now abundant only in East Africa. Poachers sometimes hunt hippos for their large, soft ivory tusks, which are easier to carve than elephant tusks. Humans have moved into hippo habitat, using the fresh water where hippos live for farming needs. A new threat to hippos these days is hunters who kill them for their meat, which has become a popular food item.

 Short Facts

  • Hippos are the third-largest living land mammal, after elephants and the white rhino.

  • Contrary to popular belief, the closest relative to the hippo is the whale.

  • A common hippo’s hide alone can weigh half a ton.

  • A baby hippo can begin to eat grass at 3 weeks, however the mother hippo will continue to nurse until the young hippo is one year old.

  • Despite the hippos' cute appearance, they are among the most dangerous and aggressive of all mammals.

  • Hippos can run up to 30 kilometers per hour on land.

  • Hippos can store two days' worth of grass in their stomachs and can go up to three weeks without eating, if needed.

  • In African rivers, hippos look like floating islands, with birds fishing from their backs. Turtles and even baby crocodiles have been seen sunning themselves on hippos.

  • Hippos are one of the noisiest animals in Africa: some hippo vocalizations have been measured at 115 decibels, about the same volume as being 16 meters away from the speakers at a rock concert



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