The three alcelaphin bovids of the Serengeti: a comparison of adaptive colouration, part 3

@tonyrebelo @jeremygilmore @matthewinabinett @paradoxornithidae @jwidness @davidbygott @akilee @zarek @hoppy1951 @deanthompson

...continued from

In my portrayal of the adaptive colouration of the alcelaphins of the Serengeti, I have pointed out the following:

all three species, in the order C. mearnsi > D. jimela > A. cokii, tend to be dark enough to stand out from the background - as opposed to blending in by means of cryptic colouration (

My claim, that this darkness is enough to confer overall conspicuousness, may seem subjective.

Can we test this in some relatively objective way?

One approach is to study photos in which carnivores - which are accepted as having inconspicuous colouration - share the same illumination as their potential prey. Are the alcelaphins really more conspicuous than their predators?

Fortunately, the Web is fairly rich in such photos.

When viewing these images, please ignore the hues (, which may not be visible to ungulates and carnivores. Also, ignore the spotting in felids.

Instead, please assess only the overall tones, i.e. the 'shades of grey' involved (

We would expect the carnivores to have the same tone as the background. And, according to my interpretation, we would expect the alcelaphins to be darker than the background, particularly at the ventral silhouette of the torso, which is not countershaded (


In C. mearnsi, most of the figure, except for the rump and back, can look dark - the 'white' beard notwithstanding.

The following show that the overall tone of Acinonyx jubatus does indeed approximately match the background ( and and and and and and and

By contrast, C. mearnsi stands out clearly from the same background in all these photos.

When the illumination is such that the figures are backlit, the shaded profile of A. jubatus looks somewhat darker than the background. However, C. mearnsi remains far darker - even if far away - than the carnivore ( and and

In the following (, we see C. mearnsi together with A. jubatus, under identical illumination and at the same distance. (Although the carnivore is spotted, the aspect relevant here is its overall tone, relative to the background of grass.)

This, again, bears out the darkness of C. mearnsi.

A similar rationale applies to Panthera leo, as follows.

The following are complicated by the carnivore being far closer to the observer than is C. mearnsi ( and and and and and and and

However, once again the difference in tone and overall conspicuousness is obvious, between C. mearnsi and P. leo.

In the following, the complication of differing distances is eliminated, confirming the conspicuous darkness of C. mearnsi ( and and and

When the carnivore is darkened by shading, the difference between it and C. mearnsi is reduced (


The darkness of the figure is more subtle in D. jimela than in C. mearnsi. It is concentrated on the face, ventral torso, and the legs just above the carpals and the hocks.

It is unusual for photos to show darkness over most of the figure ( and The upper half of the torso usually retains medium tone.

The following sets of photos follow the same order as explained above, except that I have mixed A. jubatus with P. leo.

Carnivore closer to observer than D. jimela: and and and and

Carnivore at same distance as D. jimela, or farther: and and and and and and scroll to 14th and 15th photos in and and and and

In the following direct illumination, the figure of D. jimela shows no conspicuous darkness ( Few photos show this effect in C. mearnsi.

Overall, the above show enough darkness in D. jimela, located on the face and ventrally, to make the whole figure somewhat conspicuous at the relevant distances.


There are few relevant photos on the Web.

However, such evidence as there is suggests that A. cokii, too, tends to be somewhat darker, overall, than A. jubatus - the pale buttocks and haunches notwithstanding. and and and

The following photo nicely summarises the overall findings of this Post (

For an index to my many Posts about the genus Damaliscus, please see

Posted on April 10, 2023 06:35 AM by milewski milewski


Please focus on the upper inner surfaces of the legs in these views of carnivore vs alcelaphin.

In the carnivore, the colouration of the surfaces in question are fully congruent with inconspicuousness, being both countershaded and spotted.

By contrast, in the alcelaphin the surfaces in question have a distinct pattern, which becomes potentially conspicuous during walking, in oblique illumination.

Acinonyx jubatus

Damaliscus jimela

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

At about 2 minutes 40 seconds in, we have a clear view of the buccal semet of Alcelaphus cokii, consisting of dark pelage on the lower lips.

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago



Please note the 'manelessness' and posterior auricular flag of this specimen of Equus quagga:

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

The following footage ( shows an adult male of Damaliscus jimela displaying to females, by holding head and tail horizontal while 'stotting' (in the loose sense), in the form of slow proud-trotting. The display of the dark tail-tassel, contrasting with the pale hindquarters, indicates a caudal flag in D. jimela, in the limited context of a sexual/social function.

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago
Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

At about 3 minutes 40 seconds in and from about 50 seconds in, we see intermittent swishing of the tail in extreme distress, by Damaliscus jimela, when the animal is in the lethal grip of Acinonyx jubatus.

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

Rare footage of stotting in adults of Damaliscus jimela, in reaction to Acinonyx jubatus:

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

@paradoxornithidae @matthewinabinett

The following, of Damaliscus jimela and Acinonyx jubatus (, is valuable in showing several aspects.

When gearing up from a walking to a running gait (or from running back down to walking), D. jimela does not use a trot, instead proceeding directly from amble to canter

(The following is one of the few photos on the Web that shows trotting in D. jimela:

However, an individual adult, which leaves the safety of the group to chase the carnivore, approaches A. jubatus by means of a trotting gait, suggesting that this gait is reserved for assertive displays, even where the trot does not look particularly 'proud'.

In this agitated group, we see a few instances of head-nodding, a behaviour common in Damaliscus pygargus but seldom recorded in D. jimela.

At the height of excitement as it attacks the carnivore, the aforementioned individual of D. jimela wags its tail furiously.

The whole scene shows clearly how dark the figures of D. jimela are overall, compared to A. jubatus - notwithstanding the fact that the dorsal half of the torso of this alcelaphin is exempt from this darkness.

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

The following, of Alcelaphus cokii, shows clearly the lack of a posterior auricular flag, and less clearly the buccal semet:

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

The following shows the dark appearance of Syncerus caffer, in the distance, compared with Alcelaphus cokii:

Posted by milewski over 1 year ago

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