Adaptative colouration in gorals

There are three species/species-groups of gorals (Nemorhaedus): western (goral, bedfordi), central (baileyi), and eastern (griseus, caudatus). These differ little in adaptive colouration if one ignores reddish hues which are probably invisible to ungulates and carnivores.

The colouration of gorals is inconspicuous (e.g. and, being a combination of cryptic and disruptive. This inconspicuousness is adaptive in reducing the chances of being spotted by predators.

However, there are several patterns which can be conspicuous at close range when in motion, and in some species or individuals of gorals these qualify as flags.

Flags are designed to be overlooked at distances relevant to scanning predators, but to become noticeable at relatively short range once secrecy is unnecessary: for example, in informing a stalking predator that it has lost the advantage of surprise, or to inform a companion of direction of locomotion while foraging.

In gorals, the parts of the body which have modest-size or at least residual patterns of dark/pale contrast - making them candidates for flags - are the throat ( and, the fore feet ( and, and the tail/buttocks ( In the genus in general, these remain at the edge of being noticeable enough to communicate signals to conspecifics and/or detected predators.

The frontal flag consists, in both sexes, of a large pale patch on the throat in conjunction with the pale upper lips, and in contrast with the dark rhinarium. It is activated by e.g. the movement and sound of alarm-snorting.

The frontal flag is well-developed in Nemorhaedus goral ( and and some individuals of Nemorhaedus griseus ( and Nemorhaedus caudatus (, and poorly-developed in Nemorhaedus baileyi (

The pedal flag is located more on the fore than the hind feet, and consists mainly of pale pasterns in contrast with dark carpals. It is activated by foot-stamping in alarm, and by walking.

The pedal flag in Nemorhaedus goral, Nemorhaedus griseus and Nemorhaedus caudatus varies individually rather than among species. The dark feature on the front of the fore leg can be centred below ( and or above the carpals ( and and and

The following show the individual variation in the configuration of the pedal flag within Nemorhaedus caudatus: and and;jsessionid=DBBB086BBDC9E4C88C1467650A95118E?page=ViewImageData&service=external&sp=27963 and

The caudal flag consists of the dark of the tail-tassel next to a small area of pale on the buttocks, or (in some individuals of Nemorhaedus caudatus) the white of the tail-tassel plus that on the buttocks (see and It is activated by the infrequent flicking of the tail (e.g. see, or by the loose, passive movement of the tail while running in the case of N. caudatus.

In Nemorhaedus goral the pattern is vestigial, which means that most individuals lack any caudal flag ( and

The following show the pattern in: Nemorhaedus griseus ( and and and, Nemorhaedus caudatus ( and and and, and Nemorhaedus baileyi ( and, and ostensibly the same species in winter coat:

I have not seen enough photos to be sure about seasonal changes. However, the following suggest that the conspicuousness of the front-of-ear differs between the summer coat and the winter coat: and and

Nemorhaedus baileyi is so nondescript in summer coat ( and that a more apt name than 'red goral', in adaptive terms, would be 'monotone goral'.

In the following I have assembled the clearest photos of each species/species-group.

Nemorhaedus goral

Nemorhaedus griseus

Nemorhaedus caudatus

Nemorhaedus baileyi

Posted on September 06, 2021 05:39 AM by milewski milewski


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