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Hair morphology of some artiodactyls from southern Africa

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We describe the scale pattern and cross-sectional morphology of the hairs of seven southern African artiodactyls: Aepyceros melampus (impala), Connochaetes taurinus (blue wildebeest), Connochaetes gnou (black wildebeest), Taurotragus oryx (eland), Raphicerus campestris (steenbok), Tragelaphus strepsiceros (kudu) and Phacochoerus aethiopicus (warthog). Samples were taken from the back of pelts curated at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History in Pretoria, South Africa. Prior to examination, the average length of the hairs was measured. The hairs were mounted on stubs, sputter-coated with gold and examined using scanning electron microscopy. Analysis of the hair samples revealed fine details of species-specific scale and cross-sectional morphology. However, in one case the cross-sectional shape was not found to be the same as that previously reported for black wildebeest, and in another, the scale pattern of kudu was different from that described elsewhere. Scale pattern and cross-sectional shape are good starting points in documenting hair morphology of southern African mammals, but we suggest that the range of features considered diagnostic of a species be broadened. We propose that researchers involved in the study of hair document when possible, in addition to guard hairs, examples from different sites on the body, and from young and old individuals to facilitate taxonomic hair identification of mammals.

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