Rock Hyrax a Trivial Bonanza

P. capensis (rock hyrax)It sounds lonely: “Modern hyraxes are members of the Procaviidae family, the only living family within the Hyracoidea.” Venerable, primitive mammals, rock hyraxes are full of trivial surprises, as Mary Bates explains for Wired Science’s Zoologic:

The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) is full of surprises. While it looks like a slightly more robust version of a guinea pig, it’s no rodent. These squat, furry animals are found across Africa and the middle East, where they like to hang out in rock formations and the seemingly inhospitable nooks on sheer cliff faces. Rock hyraxes are gregarious, living in colonies of up to 80 individuals. They grow up to two feet in length and about 10 pounds in weight.

Weird stomachs, tusks to mark their relation to elephants, toenails, scent gland, suctiony feet, and even cameos in the Bible; the note on reproductive glands, though, is actually a bit … (ahem!) scary.

Even so, at two feet long and ten pounds in adulthood, rock hyraxes have managed to develop a reasonably complex language including twenty-one sounds woven into diverse patterns, as well as regional dialectical differences.

Nor is it actually so lonely; Procaviidae may be the last living family of order Hyracoidea, but the rock hyrax has fellows and neigbors, such as the yellow-spotted rock hyrax and two kinds of tree hyrax.

As an additional note, there is apocrypha … not quite a story, not quite a theory … suggesting that the rock hyrax is the root of Hispania, and therefore the animal after which Spanish-speaking culture is named. Stranger things, of course, have happened … at least, I think.