Dorcas Gazelles are generally pale colored with a white underbelly and two brown stripes on either side. Adult males are larger, weighing about 16.5 kg (36.3 lbs) as compared with an average of 12.6 kg (27.7 lbs) in females . Males' horns are also longer, thicker and more curved than those of females.
Gazella dorcas is found in the northern Ethiopian biogeographic region and the southwestern Palearctic region. These gazelles inhabit parts of northern Africa, and the Sahara and Negev deserts including: Morocco, Rio de Oro, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Chad, Somalia, Ethiopia and parts of Israel and Sinai in the Middle East.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native )
Dorcas Gazelle became extinct in Senegal (where they probably only occurred as a vagrant or seasonal visitor; East 1999), and were subsequently reintroduced to protected areas although there is no recent information on their status; they are possibly extinct in Nigeria, and their current status in Burkina Faso is unclear (Lafontaine et al. 2005).
Distribution in Egypt
Widespread. No obvious decline in occupancy from records, but decline in group size since 1950 and thought by everyone to be declining with fragmented populations
Gazella dorcas varies in coloration, depending on the location. They are generally pale colored and have a white underbelly with two brown stripes on either side. In the northern Sahara they are an ochre color with darker flanking stripes. Near the Red Sea, they are reddish-brown with less conspicuous, light flanking stripes. The head is darker than the rest of the body. Their horns have the most pronounced curve of members of Gazella, and within the subspecies the amount of curve in the horn varies. Horns of males are 250-280 mm long and have 20-24 rings. Female's horns are smaller (170-190 mm) and straighter with 16-18 rings. Adult males average 16.5 kg, while the females are about 12.6 kg, although average size varies among populations. They are the second smallest gazelle species.
Range mass: 14 to 18 kg.
Average mass: 16.5 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; ornamentation
Gazella dorcas is the best equipped member of the genus Gazella to inhabit dry areas. They are found in a variety of habitats: savannahs, semi-deserts, small sand dune fields, consolidated dune areas, and wadis, and are associated with a number of different plant species. High densities of G. dorcas are found in sand dune fields with high concentrations of Pancratium sickenbergeri, a preferred food.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland
Habitat and Ecology
Dorcas Gazelles inhabit savannas to sand dunes throughout the northern half of Africa. This species is exceptionally well-adapted to arid conditions. Dorcas Gazelles can withstand high temperatures and survive without drinking water, because they get all the moisture they need from the plants they eat.
Gazella dorcas individuals feed on the flowers, leaves, and pods of Acacia trees in many of the areas they inhabit. They also feed on fruits and leaves of a variety of bushes. In the Negev Desert, G. dorcas feeds on Madonna lilies (Pancratium sickenbergeri). Depending on the season, methods for obtaining food change. In summer gazelles dig holes in the sand to remove the stem and bulb of Madonna lilies. After winter rains, gazelles eat freshly sprouted leaves. Foraging techniques permit maximum energy intake with minimum energy output. Large amounts of feeding are done in small areas with high concentrations of plant life followed by long moves to other feeding areas.
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Granivore , Lignivore)
Gazella dorcas, along with some other ungulates, make up the primary mode of seed dispersal for a variety of plants in the Acacia genus between the Red Sea and Israel.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Gazella dorcas populations have many predators. Cheetahs, lions, servals, caracals, wolves, and hyaena prey on all sizes and ages. Young can be killed by smaller predators, such as foxes, eagles, and jackals. Many of these predators have been wiped out in areas where gazelles are currently found. Humans, wolves and caracal continue to be major predatory threats to these gazelles. Gazella dorcas relies chiefly on its keen eyesight to watch for predators. They have calls described in the communication section that help alert others in a herd to the presence of a predator. Skin shivering, tail twitching, and taking bouncing leaps with its head high, also called stotting, are all used to warn others of the presence of a predator.
- cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)
- leopards (Panthera pardus)
- lions (Panthera leo)
- servals (Leptailurus serval)
- caracals (Caracal caracal)
- wolves (Canis lupus)
- hyaenas (Hyaenidae)
- humans (Homo sapiens)
Prey: predators include lions.
Competes for food with: domestic sheep and goats.
Life History and Behavior
Gazelles have an alarm call which sounds like a short bark. They also use a louder call made in cases of extreme danger or pain. Females have a low grunt to call the young and all G. dorcas can produce a long growling sound that signals annoyance. When in danger from a predator, "stotting", described in the predation section, is a common way to warn other gazelles of the predators presence.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
These gazelles feed on fruits, twigs, leaves, flowers and pods of many bushes and trees, especially Acacia,and occasionally are observed standing on their hind legs to browse. They may also excavate stems and bulbs buried underground, especially during dry season months.
When conditions are harsh, Dorcas Gazelles live in pairs, but when conditions are more favorable they congregate in larger herds with one adult male, several females and young. During the breeding season, these adult males defend territories, scent marking the boundaries with piles of dung.
In captivity Gazella dorcas can live up to 15 years. Average lifespan in the wild is unknown and may vary by population.
Status: captivity: 15 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 17.1 years.
Status: wild: 12.5 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
During the September to November mating season males will guard territory marked by their droppings. Depending on local climate, a group of G. dorcas will consist of one or two males with a harem of females or just a male-female pair. In extreme climates, where resources are scarce, they primarily associate in pairs.
Mating System: polygynous
In the wild, females will usually begin reproducing around age two. In captivity pregnancy can happen as early as six months of age. About 90% of females in the wild became pregnant. They give birth to only one offspring per pregnancy in almost all cases. Pregnancy lasts around six months and the fawn is born with hair and open eyes. Young spend the majority of their first two weeks curled up in the shade. Afterwards they will follow the mother around looking for solid food. Males do not seem to participate in the care of the young, except indirectly through resource defense for the group.
Breeding interval: Breeding occurs once yearly.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs from September to November.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average gestation period: 6 months.
Average weaning age: 3 months.
Range time to independence: 1 (low) years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 1650 g.
Average gestation period: 182 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 589 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 730 days.
Females nurse their young for one to two minutes several times a day for around 3 months. For the first two weeks of the young gazelle's life, the mother grazes and sleeps away from the young gazelle, leaving it in a safe spot. As the young gazelle grows, they join their natal group for the first year, or longer.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Gazella dorcas
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Gazella dorcas
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
This species is considered threatened and in the past was classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. The ongoing threats to this species are habitat destruction and illegal hunting.
US Federal List: threatened
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Insufficiently Known(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Status in Egypt
IUCN Status: VULNERABLE
Lafontaine et al. (2005) report recent declines in almost all range states and say it has disappeared from many regions and is seriously reduced in numbers where it survives. The largest current populations are in Chad (especially in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve), Niger (Aïr-Ténéré National Nature Reserve and the Termit Massif-TinToumma), and the horn countries (Scholte and Hashim in press, and references therein). In Morocco, the wild population is estimated at 800- 2,000 individuals (Cuzin et al. in press). The population in Israel was estimated at >2,000 and stable (Clark and Frankenberg 2001).
Dorcas Gazelle populations have declined throughout its range. Threats facing this species include habitat loss due to the expansion of agriculture and overgrazing by domestic sheep and goats. Uncontrolled poaching for sport and food as well as predation by dogs are also taking a toll.
Dorcas Gazelle do well in captivity, and are particularly common in several privately owned, captive collections in the Middle East (most originating from Egypt, the horn of Africa and Sudan) (Scholte and Hashim in press). Additionally, there is a well-managed captive population in Almeria (Spain), originating from Western Saharan stock.
Listed in CITES Appendix III (Algeria, Tunisia).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Gazella dorcas is better adapted for the environment around Israel in the Negev desert than other grazing animals. They outcompete other grazers such as sheep and goats that are used for economic purposes.
Gazella dorcas is hunted as a food source.
Positive Impacts: food
The dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas), also known as the ariel gazelle, is a small and common gazelle. The dorcas gazelle stands about 55–65 cm (1.8-2.1 ft) at the shoulder, with a head and body length of 90–110 cm (3-3.6 ft) and a weight of 15–20 kg (33-44 lb). The numerous subspecies survive on vegetation in grassland, steppe, wadis, mountain desert and in semidesert climates of Africa and Arabia. About 35,000 - 40,000 exist in the wild. The extinct Saudi gazelle from the Arabian Peninsula has been previously considered as a subspecies of the dorcas gazelle.
- Gazella dorcas beccarii - Eritrean dorcas gazelle
- G. d. dorcas - Egyptian dorcas gazelle
- G. d. isabella = /littoralis/ - Isabella's gazelle
- G. d. massaesyla - Moroccan dorcas gazelle
- G. d. osiris = /neglecta/ - Saharan dorcas gazelle
- G. d. pelzelni - Pelzeln's gazelle
The dorcas gazelle is similar in appearance to, yet smaller than, the closely related mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella). Dorcas gazelles have longer ears and more strongly curved horns, which bow outwards then turn inwards and forwards at the tips. Individuals belonging to the Saharan subspecies (G. d. osiris) have very pale, fawn-colored coats. The white underside is bordered with a brown stripe, above which is a sandy stripe. The forehead and face are darker than the body. Subspecies from north of the Sahara tend to be more ochre in color, and have dark flanks and facial stripes. Populations in Israel and around the Red Sea are darker and more reddish. In the last century, the populations of dorcas gazelle were partially destroyed in all the countries where it was found.
Currently, large populations of dorcas gazelles are found in the Negev and the Arava, with other large populations in Sudan, Iraq, and the southern part of the eastern desert of Egypt. In Israel, only 1000-1500 gazelles remain.
Dorcas gazelles are highly adapted to the desert; they can go their entire lives without drinking, as they can get all of the moisture they need from the plants in their diets, though they do drink when water is available. They are able to withstand high temperatures, but when it is very hot, they are active mainly from dusk to dawn. In areas where they face human predation, they tend to be active only at night to minimise the risk of falling prey to hunters. These gazelles feed on leaves, flowers, and pods of many species of acacia trees, as well as the leaves, twigs and fruits of various bushes. They occasionally stand on their hind legs to browse from trees, and after rain, they have been observed digging out bulbs from the ground. Dorcas gazelles are able to run at speeds up to 80 km/hr (50 mph) to 96 km per hour (60 mph) when threatened, they tail-twitch and make bouncing leaps with their heads held high (stotting), possibly to announce they have seen a predator.
When conditions are harsh, dorcas gazelles live in pairs, but when conditions are more favorable, they join together in family herds with one adult male, several females, and young. During the breeding season, adult males tend to be territorial, and mark their range with dung middens. In most parts of their range, mating takes place from September to November. Gestation takes six months; a single fawn is typical, although twins have been reported in Algeria. The newborn is well developed at birth, with fur and open eyes. Within the first hour, the fawn attempts to stand, and it will suckle on this first day of life. In the first two weeks, the young gazelle lies curled up in a scrape on the ground or beneath bushes while the mother grazes close by. The young then starts to follow its mother around and begins to take solid food. After around three months, the fawn stops suckling and is fully weaned. Some dorcas gazelles are also known for their dangerous behaviors when surrounded. There have been many reports of deaths involving them.
The population of this gazelle has declined throughout its range. Their natural predators include humans, cheetahs, leopards, Arabian wolves, and lions. Due to human hunting, few large cats remain to prey on dorcas gazelles. Mostly unhealthy gazelles are caught successfully by predators, since the healthy gazelles tend to escape them. To escape the cheetah, the fastest of carnivores, they run extremely fast and make zigs-zags, as does the Thomson's gazelle. The serval and caracal also prey on this species. The biggest modern threat to this gazelle is ever-expanding human civilization, which shrinks the gazelle's habitat by converting it to farmland, and by introducing new flocks of domestic sheep and goats which compete with gazelles for grassland.
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