~~August 22, 2014~~
Today’s “class” is about FEET
Literally, “ungulate” refers to any animal with hooves – a hoof being an enlarged toenail. However, in practice, the use of the name “ungulate” has been inconsistent. While it was originally used to refer to the orders Artiodactyla (even-toed) and Perissodactyla (odd-toed) – the “true” ungulates – over time the term expanded to seven different extant Mammalian orders . . . some of which have no hooves whatsoever!
This broadening of the definition was based on presumed family relationships – relationships that recent advances have shown to be artificial. As a result, ungulate is now understood to have no taxonomic significance, and its definition has returned to its original descriptive roots: a mammal with hooves.
GET TO KNOW YOUR UNGULATES!
Pic 1 – Rhino feet – Odd-toed ungulate
Ungulates are a diverse group of large mammals that includes horses, cattle, giraffes, camels, deer, hippopotamuses, whales and dolphins – Yes Dolphins too.
Most of them use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. The term means, roughly, “being hoofed” or “hoofed animal”. As a descriptive term, “ungulate” normally excludes cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises), as they do not possess most of the typical morphological (body) characteristics of ungulates, but recent discoveries indicate that they are descended from early artiodactyls.
Ungulates are typically herbivorous (though some species are omnivorous, such as pigs), and many employ specialized gut bacteria to allow them to digest cellulose, as in the ruminants. They inhabit a wide range of habitats, from jungles to plains to rivers.
Pic 2 – Giraffe feet – Ungulate
A Rhinoceros must never be referred to as “just an ungulate” as they are not. If one looks closely you’ll actually see “odd looking toes” hence the anatomy terminology (odd toe ungulate).
An odd-toed ungulate is a mammal with hooves that feature an odd number of toes on the rear feet. Odd-toed ungulates comprise the order Perissodactyla – perissós, “uneven”, and, dáktylos, “finger/toe”). The middle toe on each hind hoof is usually larger than its neighbors.
Odd-toed ungulates are relatively large grazers and, unlike the ruminant even-toed ungulates (artiodactyls), they have relatively simple stomachs because they are hindgut fermenters, digesting plant cellulose in their intestines rather than in one or more stomach chambers. Odd-toed ungulates include the horse, tapirs, and rhinoceroses.
Pic 3 – Proghorn feet – Even toed ungulate
Re-cap on Even toed-Ungulates
The even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla) are ungulates (hoofed animals) whose weight is borne about equally by the third and fourth toes, rather than mostly or entirely by the third as in odd-toed ungulates (perissodactyls), such as horses.
Artiodactyla comes from (Greek: ἄρτιος (ártios), “even”, and δάκτυλος (dáktylos), “finger/toe”), so the name “even-toed” is a translation of the description. This group includes pigs, peccaries, hippopotamuses, camels, llamas, chevrotains (mouse deer), deer, giraffes, pronghorn, antelopes, sheep, goats, and cattle.
The group excludes whales (Cetacea) even though DNA sequence data indicate that they share a common ancestor, making the group paraphyletic. The phylogenetically accurate group is Cetartiodactyla (from Cetacea + Artiodactyla).
So what are Elephants?
Elephants together with hyraxes, dugongs, and manatees are classified as ‘paenungulates’ (‘almost ungulates’). Although formerly known as ‘sub-ungulates’, they are now recognised as representing the evolutionary intermediate between hooves and claw-like nails. With new discoveries suggesting the fact that the paenungulates were even more specialized than the ‘true’ ungulate group, they are now firmly established within the constantly expanding taxonomy of the ungulate infraorder. Therefore elephants ARE ungulates.
So there you have it!
Pic 4 – Elephant foot – Although classified as “almost ungulates” (they are actually no different really to that of a Rhinoceros) however have some different representations which can be classed as “almost ungulate”.
Almost ungulate is not really a term used in Zoology.
Dr Josa Depre
Environmentalist and Botanist.
~~Dallas Zoo celebrates its ungulates!~~
~~Published on Jun 6, 2014~~
It’s International Ungulate Day, and we’re celebrating ours! We have more ungulates than any other zoological park in Texas.
(What do you mean, you don’t know what an “ungulate” is? But they’re so darn popular! Everyone loves ungulates!)
We ALL are connected through NATURE!!
We ALL are ONE!!