The bambis, part 5: possible new species-names for klipspringers in southern Africa

...continued from

In my last Post I pointed out differences in the shape, pelage and colouration of the ear pinnae ( which suggest that the klipspringer currently called Oreotragus oreotragus oreotragus ( may deserve to be elevated in status from subspecies to species.

Another way in which O. o. oreotragus differs from other klipspringers, as previously pointed out by Groves and Grubb (2011), is in the direction of sexual dimorphism.

Most subspecies of klipspringers have females larger-bodied than males (e.g. transvaalensis and and and and and and and

However, in O. o. oreotragus it is males which are larger-bodied than females ( and and and and

Klipspringers have been investigated genetically ( There are indeed considerable genetic differences between the southwestern and northern/eastern klipspringers. On page 63, Le Roex (2008) states that "the level of differentiation between the S/SW and N/NE in particular is extremely high, it is comparable to some of the highest levels of intraspecific variation previously reported in bovids".

What this all means is that both the phenotypic and the genotypic evidence suggests that there are two, not one, species of klipspringers in southern Africa.

If so, what should we call them?

I am not a taxonomist, but this is my provisional understanding.

The first specimen formally named was in 1783, near Cape Town, by Zimmerman. The specific epithet was oreotragus.

As far as I know, the next specimen named was in 1853, in Ethiopia, by Temminck. The specific epithet was saltatrixoides.

Specimens from West and East Africa were named in 1899 (aceratos), 1902 (somalicus and schillingsi), 1911 (porteousi), and 1913 (aureus).

All names, besides the original oreotragus, applicable to southern Africa were relatively late: for example, transvaalensis 1917, tyleri in 1921, and stevensoni in 1946.

Although tyleri has come to be associated with Namibia, the first specimen was collected in Angola and tyleri actually occurs in only a limited part of Namibia.

Splitting klipspringers into two species would mean that the earliest name for the southwestern type is oreotragus (Zimmermann, 1783) and the earliest name for the northern/eastern type is saltatrixoides (Temminck, 1853).

Accordingly, the revised names in southern Africa would be as follows.

Oreotragus oreotragus would be the Cape klipspringer.

This occurs in Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape provinces of South Africa, plus Namibia south of Damaraland. No subspecies have been named. However, there is noticeable variation from south (short) to north (long) in the length of the ear pinna (compare and with, which may be merely ecotypic or may possibly indicate a subspecies.

Oreotragus saltatrixoides would be the common klipspringer.

This occurs widely from Free State and Kwazulu-Natal provinces of South Africa to north of the equator. The subspecies in southern Africa are transvaalensis (southernmost, including southeastern Botswana and Lesotho), stevensoni (Zimbabwe and eastern Botswana), and tyleri (Angola plus northern Namibia).

The only zone of intergradation between these two species seems to be in Damaraland in north-central Namibia, where the phenotype seems intermediate between Oreotragus oreotragus and Oreotragus saltatrixoides tyleri (

The following photos illustrate each of these forms:

Oreotragus oreotragus and and and

Oreotragus saltatrixoides transvaalensis and and and

Oreotragus saltatrixoides stevensoni and and and

Oreotragus saltatrixoides tyleri and and and

to be continued in

Posted on October 03, 2021 02:39 AM by milewski milewski


Posted by milewski almost 3 years ago

Here are unusually clear illustrations of the ear pinna in the Cape klipspringer:

Posted by milewski almost 3 years ago

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