How do impalas manage to graze, despite their narrow muzzle?

Impalas (Aepyceros) are basically grazers.

However, unlike other grazing ungulates, they have a narrow muzzle.

How can this anomaly be explained?

RELATIONSHIP TO LAWNS

The relationship of impalas to lawns is somewhat confusing.

Impalas are not lawn-formers and -maintainers in the same sense as wildebeests (Connochaetes) and the hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius).

However, they are

  • capable of grazing the short grass on lawns, by virtue of their 'muscular lips', and
  • particularly associated with lawns in the sense of nocturnal avoidance of trees and shrubs.

The latter relationship is epiphenomenal, in the sense that impalas congregate in treeless vegetation at night as an anti-predator tactic, and this then tends to lawn the grass.

USE OF THE TONGUE

Impalas resemble the African savanna buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in that they need grass taller than a lawn, for adequate foraging.

However, the reasons differ.

The African savanna buffalo uses its mouth differently from impalas. It has blunt, clumsy lips, but it uses its prehensile tongue to sweep grass into the mouth.

Impalas seem never to extend the tongue more than 1 centimeter during foraging. Instead, they reach into the sward, using the narrow muzzle to select the grass leaves while avoiding the culms.

Posted on March 01, 2024 02:42 AM by milewski milewski

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Posted by milewski 5 months ago

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