Hyrax Relatives

They say a hyrax is related most closely to an elephant. How?

They look all fuzzy like rodents.

Check out the teeth and the feet. Those are more diagnostic than “fuzzyness” for determining taxonomic relationships.

Finding relatives to Hirax is difficult. The band members mostly kept to themselves, unlike other west coast thrash metal bands which all seem to be related in some way or another. The only outside connection I could find is with lead singer Katon D. Pena, who later formed a band called Phantasm, featuring original Metallica bassist Rob McGovney. And since Metallica could be considered the big elephant of heavy metal, perhaps the description is apt.

Umm…that is what you wanted, right? :smiley:

Yeah and before anyone else says it, Hyrax’s cousin is Oreo. <rimshot> Back to the question :slight_smile:

Stimpy you idiot, that is Hydrox! :wink:

Seriously, I seem to recall a piece on NPR speaking about early explorers of the Iberian peninsula, who saw rabbits/hares and in noting their similarity to the hyrax, thought them to be relatives thereof, Iberia being translated to ‘Land of the hyrax.’

I have no cite, sorry!


Oh yeah.

I was going to mention the testes, but I didn’t want to be known as an expert on coney cohones.

The Masai of East Africa refer to the hyrax as the “elephant’s little brother,” so the connection must not be all that terribly esoteric. I’d guess that they observed the similarities of the teeth and the testicond condition, and made the connection on that basis. If I ever run into any Masai I’ll have to remember to ask them what the deal is.

I think the Iberian Peninsula was named by the Phoenicians. Their name for the hyrax was shaphan, which translates roughly as “little guy who hides in the rocks.” Not being as observant as the Masai, evidently, they decided that the place was crawling with some sort of mutant long-eared, slightly less stinky form of hyrax. They therefore came up with the brilliantly original name of “Hyrax Land” or “Ishaphania” which was later corrupted by the Romans to “Hispania.” At least that’s the way I always heard the story. If I ever bump into a Phoenician seafarer I’ll have to get some confirmation on that.

BTW, another name for “hyrax” is “coney.” And cognates of “coney” mean “rabbit” in various languages.

Also, I think if you look back far enough, you’ll see ancient elephant ancestors that were much smaller, and ancient hyrax ancestors that were much bigger.

And don’t forget that one of early Proboscid/Sirenian relatives was the Desmostylus. :slight_smile:

All you tethytheres are on an ego trip, anyway! :wink:

Add me to the list of Hyrax relatives.

The rock dassies in South Africa are cute, cute, cute. And pretty friendly up there on Table Mountain. Really small little elephants I suppose.

It’s been supported molecularly as well (amongst many references). And it’s not every day that an abstract makes you smile

The Tree Hyrax is my personal favorite: an arboreal animal with hoofs.

Some phylogeny for ya:

Dugongs & Sea cows (Dugongidae) + Manatees (Trichechidae) = Sirenia

Probiscidea (containing family Elephantidae [elephants]) + Sirenia = Tethytheria

Tethytheria + Hyracoidea (containing family Procaviidae [hyraxes]) = Paenungulata

At the molecular level, Paenungulata remains intact, but Hyracoidea appears more similar to Probiscidea with Sirenia as a sister group to these, rather than Probiscidea and Sirenia being more similar to one another. Or, to put it another way, Tethytheria appears to be supported by morphologic data, but not molecular data.

Whoa…I need a geek break…

Wow, thanks, Darwin’s Finch. Can you find out where Desmostylids (like our buddy above) and Arsinotheres fit into the picture?

And can you confirm my vague impression that these all evolved in North Africa?

Unfortunately, the cladogram I have avilable only lists extant groups. However, it appears that some authors include Probiscidea and the extinct Desmostylia in a group called Behemota. This group would take the place of Probiscidea in my above phylogeny for the definition of Tethytheria (that is, Tethytheria = Behemota [= Probiscidea + Desmotstylia] + Sirenia).

Arsinotherium is likewise often shoehorned into Tethytheria as a member of Embrithopoda. In such a case, you get Tethytheria = Sirenia + Probiscidea + Desmostylia + Embrithopoda (not a whole lot is known about the precise relationships of the two extinct groups, so they are just kind of thrown into the tethythere mix). All of this is, of course, based on morphological data since molecular data isn’t available.

According to this document (entitled Molecular evidence for multiple origins of Insectivora and for a new order of endemic African insectivore mammals - it’s in pdf format), it appears that these critters all did, indeed, originate in Africa. So, what we have from that article is a clade called Afrotheria, which includes Paenungulata, as well as the titular “new order” of Afrosoricida (golden moles + tenrecs), as well as aardvarks and elephant shrews. However, the authors note that Desmostylia and Embrithopoda may not have actually evolved in Africa, but from ancestors which migrated out of Africa.