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|African Wild Dog|
The African wild dog or African hunting dog, Lycaon pictus, is a carnivorous mammal of the Canidae family, found only in Africa, especially in scrub savanna and other lightly wooded areas. It is also called cape hunting dog, painted dog, or painted wolf in English, Wildehond in Afrikaans, and Mbwa mwitu in Swahili. It is the only species in the monotypic genus, Lycaon.
Anatomy and reproduction
The wild dog has a pelage (fur) with an irregular pattern of black, yellow, and white, distinctive for each individual. Lycaon pictus means "painted wolf" in Greek. It is the only canid species to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs.
Adults typically weigh 17-36 kilograms (37-79 pounds).A tall, lean animal, they stand about 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder, with a head and body length averaging about 40 inches (100cm) and a tail of 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm). Animals in southern Africa are generally larger than those in the eastern or western Africa.
There is little sexual dimorphism, though judging by skeletal dimensions, males are usually 3-7% larger. They have a dental formula of 18.104.22.168 - 22.214.171.124 for a total of 42 teeth. The premolars are relatively large compared to other canids, allowing them to consume a large quantity of bone, much like hyenas. The heel of the lower carnassial M1 is crested with a single cusp, which enhances the shearing capacity of teeth and thus the speed at which prey can be consumed. This feature is called trenchant heel and is shared with two other canids: the Asian dhole and the South American bush dog.
A study by Wroe et al established that the African Wild dog had a Bite Force Quotient of 142, the highest of any extant carnivorous mammal. The BFQ is essentially the strength of bite as measured against the animal's mass.
Wild dogs reproduce at any time of year and peak between March and June during the second half of the rainy season. 2-19 pups can be born per litter, though 10 is the most usual number. The time between births is usually 12-14 months, though it can also be as short as 6 months if all of the previous young die. Pups are usually born in an abandoned den dug by other animals such as aardvarks. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the pack. At the age of 8-11 months they can kill small prey, but they are not proficient until about 12-14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves. Pups reach sexual maturity at the age of 12-18 months.
Females will disperse from their birth pack at 14-30 months of age and join other packs that lack sexualy mature females. Males typically do not leave the pack they were born to. This is the opposite situation to that in most other social mammals, where a group of related females forms the core of the pack or similar group. In the African wild dog, the females compete for access to males that will help to rear their offspring. In a typical pack, males outnumber females by a factor of two to one, and only the dominant female is usually able to rear pups. This unusual situation may have evolved to ensure that packs do not over-extend themselves by attempting to rear too many litters at the same time.
A captive breeding and translocation program at Mkomazi Game Reserve, the first of its kind in East Africa, was founded in 1995 to provide dogs for a multinational effort to stabilize their numbers and to reintroduce the species to its traditional homeland. The dogs are allocated to four breeding compounds to maximize genetic diversity. An extensive veterinary program has been set up to improve their immunity to disease.
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