Goitered gazelle are common in the southern Arabian Peninsula, through southern Kazakhstan and Mongolia, to northwestern China. Elsewhere, they have significantly declined and occur mostly in remote areas or on protected reserves. Small populations exist in western and southern Afghanistan and Pakistan. In southeastern Turkey, northern Saudi Arabia, the Rub al Khali Desert, and Wahiba Sands of Oman much larger populations occur. In the central deserts of Iran, goitered gazelles are common and have begun to increase in protected regions. They have been introduced to Barsa-Kel’mes and Ogurchinsky Islands in the Aral and Caspian Sea, respectively, and to locations throughout the United Arab Emirates.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )
The historical range of Arabian Sand Gazelle (the only subspecies assessed here) covered the Arabian Peninsula north to southern Iraq and Kuwait. The taxon is currently found in Bahrain (Hawar Island and southern part of Bahrain Island); Oman (Dhofar, edge of Rub al Khali to Arabian Oryx Sanctuary); United Arab Emirates (Umm al Zummur area); Saudi Arabia (four populations, all in protected areas); Jordan (north-east); Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It is now extinct in Kuwait (Mallon and Kingswood 2001).
Goitered gazelle are medium-sized, lightly built ungulates; however, they have a more robust body type than most other Asian Gazella species. Goitered gazelle get their name from the goiter-like enlargement on their larynx. They are sexually dimorphic as males are larger than females and have longer horns and larger goiters than females. Adult males range in mass from 20 to 43 kg and adult females range in mass from 18 to 33 kg. Adult males have long, black horns that are 203 to 340 mm long, which are close together at their base and curve away from each toward the distal ends. Unlike most other gazelle species, females are generally hornless. Goitered gazelle have long ears with large black eyes. At the end of their long slender legs are small black hooves. The coxofemoral joint muscle is strengthened in goitered gazelles, enabling a strong thrusting motion that stabilizes running in rough terrain. Pelage color varies geographically, from white to brown with shades of grey, red, and yellow. Facial pelage is often white and tends to fade with age. They have relatively a short tail, which is covered with dark brown or black hair. In the winter their pelage becomes longer, thicker, and lighter in color when compared to summer pelage.
The skull of goitered gazelle has an inflated and less downwardly deflected posterior braincase. Their occipito-parietal suture is angular, the premaxillae is nearly straight, and the fronto-nasal and palato-maxillary sutures are V-shaped. In addition to their well developed lachrymal fossae, they have large, inflated tympanic bullae lacking ventral ridges. Finally, the supraorbital foramina are recessed in deep pits and male skulls are easily identified by their large horn cores, also known as the cornual process. Their skull is easily distinguished from other gazelle species by its larger size, broader palate and greater orbital width. Female skulls with horns are distinguished from female mountain gazelle skulls by their slightly greater orbital and palatal width and larger lachrymal pits.
Goitered gazelle have high crowned (i.e., hypsodont) selenodont teeth. Their dental formula is 0/3, 0/1, 3/3, 3/3, for a total of 32 teeth. Calves are born with 3 incisors, 1 canine, and 3 deciduous cheekteeth on both sides of the lower jaw. In their upper jaw, calves are born with only 3 premolars on each side. During their first year, two permanent molars erupt and at 14 months, their third molar erupts along with the replacement of their deciduous molars with 3 premolars.
Although 4 inguinal mammae can form, female goitered gazelle typically have 2. In general, goitered gazelle have inguinal, carpal, pedal, and preorbital glands. The inguinal and carpal glands secrete a yellow, waxy substance with a musky odor. Their preorbital glands produce a black secretion and can be much larger in males.
Range mass: 17.5 to 43 kg.
Range length: 940 to 1260 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; ornamentation
Goitered gazelle inhabit various types of desert and semiarid terrain occurring in foothills and montane valleys. They graze at the edge of cultivated land, while avoiding land used for cultivation or livestock grazing. Their habitats range from clayey and sandy soil to basalt deserts or salt flats. The can occupy areas virtually absent of vegetation to areas that support grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Goitered gazelle are limited in their northern distributions by areas where snow depths reach 10 to 15 cm during winter. During winter they inhabit windy snow-free areas and use deep valleys, low mountain canyons, or dense shrubs as shelter from the wind. Throughout their geographic range, they can occupy habitat from sea level to 3,500 m. In Iran they are found from sea level to about 2,100 m and from 1,050 m to 2,100 in Pakistan. In Afghanistan they are only found below 1,000 m. Goitered gazelle often occupy higher altitudes during summer, ranging from 3,000 m to 3,500 m in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China.
Range elevation: 0 to 3500 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
Goitered gazelles are herbivores and generally eat grasses. Often their diet includes halophytes, composites, legumes, caltrops, ephedras, gourds, leadworts, and tamarisks. In agricultural areas, the variety of food eaten by goitered gazelles expands to include fruits, barley shoots, chick peas, cotton, dates, maize, melons, onions, sugar cane, and wheat. Goitered gazelles are facultative drinkers and gain a majority of their water from ingested plant material. They appear to prefer plants with high protein content. In captivity, goitered gazelles are fed alfalfa, oats, enriched grain pellets, and sulfur-free salt blocks. Because they are obligate herbivores, goitered gazelle have four-chambered stomachs (1 true stomach, 3 false stomachs) in which cellulolytic digestion occurs and are capable of storing graze in one or more of their "false stomachs".
Plant Foods: leaves; fruit
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Goitered gazelle are host to numerous species of parasites. Eighteen species of parasitic worms have been found in goitered gazelle in Kazakhstan, although their pathogenic effect is currently unknown. The larvae of 2 species of ectoparasitic botfly, Pavlovskiata subgutturosae and Crivellia corinnae, are commonly found implanted in the skin of goitered gazelle. They are also vulnerable to parasitic arthropods such as ticks and lice during summer. In addition to being an important prey item for numerous species mammals and birds, goitered gazelle forage on various types of plants and may compete with saiga antelope for forage in some areas throughout their geographic range.
- ticks (Ixodides)
- nematodes (Nematoda)
- lice (Phthiraptera)
- botfly (Pavlovskiata subgutturosae)
- botfly (Crivellia corinnae)
The main predator of goitered gazelle is gray wolves. During winter, when snow cover increases, wolves become especially effective predators due to increased vulnerability of animals. Tigers also prey on gazelle at water holes, and in Turkmenistan, they are hunted by cheetahs. Young goitered gazelle are preyed on by foxes, feral dogs, caracals, imperial eagles, and brown-necked ravens.
- wolves (Canis lupus)
- tigers (Panthera tigris)
- cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)
- foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
- feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
- caracals (Felis caracal)
- imperial eagles (Aquila heliaca)
- brown-necked ravens (Corvus ruficollis)
- golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos)
- steppe eagles (Aquila nipalensis)
Life History and Behavior
Goitered gazelles communicate using a series of deep grunts, hissing, moos and wheezing. Grunts are made by adults and young and before running, they often make a nasal hiss as an alarm. Females make hoarse, low-pitched sounds to call their young and young respond by making a low-pitched “moo”. During breeding season, males make a low, basal wheezing sound, which can be heard 100 to 150 m away. They also use glandular secretions to demarcate territorial boundaries and communicate with conspecifics, especially during breeding season.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Annual mortality rates for goitered gazelle vary in relation to sex and age class. Female mortality rates range between 9 and 18%, whereas male mortality rates range between 27 and 58%. Mortality rates for calves and juveniles are highly variable, ranging between 3 and 58%. Mortality rates tend to be lowest during summer and highest during winter. The longest known lifespan of goitered gazelles in the wild is 12 years, with an average lifespan of 6 years. The longest known lifespan of captive goitered gazelles is 20 years.
Primary causes of natural mortality in goitered gazelles include deep snow and ice-covered ground, which severely limits forage availability during winter. Mortality is also caused by entrapment in drying asphalt, drowning, and car collisions. In captive animals, causes of mortality include stress or trauma, fence injuries, and intraspecific fighting. Pathogens known to cause mortality among goitered gazelles include Corynebacterium pyogenes, Mycobacterium, Cryptosporidium, and Escherichia coli.
Status: wild: 12 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 20 (high) years.
Status: wild: 6 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
During breeding season, which occurs from September to December, individual male goitered gazelle herd and chase females into their territories and only mate with females that remain in their territory for an extended period of time. Males compete for territory prior to mating season and mark their territories by defecating in small pits that they dig with their front hooves. Often, when males find a territorial pit that is already filled, he digs out the pit and refills it with his own excrement. Just prior to breeding season, inguinal and preorbital glands of male goitered gazelle swell and increase secretion volume for courtship. Male displays during courtship include neck stretching, nose-up posturing, releasing of pheromones, foreleg kicking, and assuming an erect posture. Courtship begins after females stay in a male’s territory overnight.
While goitered gazelle form large herds in winter, gestating females leave and create small groups with one or two other gestating females. Most males mate with 2 to 12 females, however, some males do not mate at all. Males mount their mates by standing on their hind legs with their forelegs spread apart and touching her with only his pelvis.
Mating System: polygynous
Goitered gazelle become sexually mature within 1 year. Although first estrus usually occurs between 6 and 18 months, females can conceive as early as 5 months old. Males can sire offspring as early as 10.5 months old, however, they do not usually mate before 1.5 to 2.5 years old and can remain reproductively active for over 10 years. Onset of spermatogenesis occurs when the testis reach 20 mm in diameter. Males experience seasonal sperm production, which peaks during fall and spring. Breeding season occurs from November through January and can vary in timing throughout their range. Estrus usually lasts for about 12 hours, signaled by a slight swelling of the vulva. Copulation last 1 to 3 seconds, and gestation lasts for 148 to 159 days. Females move to areas with high ground or vegetative cover prior to birthing. Young are usually born between March and May. Most adult females (3 to 7 years old) have twins, although young and old females generally give birth to a single calf. On average, calves weigh 1.86 kg at birth and are completely weaned by 6 months, at which point they become independent of parental care.
Breeding interval: Goitered gazelle breed once yearly.
Breeding season: September through January
Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.
Range gestation period: 5 to 6 months.
Range weaning age: 3 to 6 months.
Average time to independence: 6 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 (low) months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 12 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 10.5 (low) months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 12 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Goitered gazelle give birth to precocious young that can stand and nurse within 10 to 15 minutes after birth. After birth, females tend to graze 50 to 500 m from their calves and seek a new hiding place for their calves after each nursing bout. If a female has twins, she often keeps them 50 to 1,000 m apart for the first 4 to 6 days. Calves are nursed 2 to 4 times a day during their first 6 weeks and are nursed for at least 3 to 6 months. Calves are able to graze and drink water at 4 to 6 weeks old. Goitered gazelle calves have extremely high growth rates during their first month of life, with 50% of their growth occurring within the first 10 days after birth. At 18 to 19 months, most calves have reached adult size. Calves are born with whirls of hair were their horns develop. Horn growth occurs at 3 to 6 months and is complete by 1 to 1.5 years. Male horns continue to grow until age 6, whereas female's reach full size by 2 to 3 years old.
Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Gazella subgutturosa
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 subgutturosa
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
In 1900’s, goitered gazelles were abundant, found in almost every desert or semi-desert area throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. In the mid-1900's, nearly one million were estimated to have lived in the Soviet Union alone. In 2001, their entire population was estimated at 120,000 to 140,000. This significant decrease has occurred in the past decade, and the rate of decrease is now measured to be more than 30% over the last ten years. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies goitered gazelles as vulnerable. While population declines are occurring throughout their entire range, declines are particularly dramatic in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, southeast Turkey and Azerbaijan. Local extirpations have occurred in Kuwait, Georgia, and possibly Kyrgyzstan. Populations in Mongolia, where about a half the current population resides, are also in decline. Major threats include unrestrained poaching and habitat destruction. Habitat destruction is primarily due to economic and agricultural development. In central Asia, harsh winters appear to have had a significant negative effect on goitered gazelle abundance.
In the mid to late 1300's, muslim armies under the command of Timur Leng were noted hunters of goitered gazelle, killing an estimated 40,000 each year. After automobiles were introduced in the 1930's, hunting for goitered gazelles became particularly easy as people would chase animals in their cars during the day, or shoot them at night while "shining" them (i.e., using artificial lights to locate and temporarily freeze animals) with their headlights. Using automobiles to hunt goitered gazelles was outlawed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1940's.
Since the 1950's, legal protection has been enforced either nationally or sub-nationally throughout most of goitered gazelles' geographic range. Although numerous reintroductions have been attempted, conservation efforts have been unsuccessful. Some countries (e.g., Turkey and Uzbekistan) have developed captive breeding programs and much of the current population uses protected habitat. Many gazelle die during winter due to malnutrition. Future conservation efforts may include restricting livestock grazing areas during winter or restricting livestock from entering habitat reserves used by goitered gazelles.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2006Vulnerable(IUCN 2006)
- 2003Near Threatened(IUCN 2003)
- 2003Near Threatened
The total population of Arabian Sand Gazelle is estimated to be less than 10,000 and certainly less than 10,000 mature individuals, with country population estimates as follows: Saudi Arabia (2,650-3,050 in four populations); United Arab Emirates (up to 1,000); Oman (no information on population size); Bahrain (350-400 on Hawar; 450-500 on Bahrain Island); Yemen (no information); Syria (approximately 100 seen in southern Syria in 1998 (Habibi 1998)); Jordan (rare); Iraq (up to 1,000 were reported by Al-Robaae and Kingswood (2001)).
The Arabian Sand Gazelle occurs in several protected areas, including: Al-Khunfah, Harrat al-Harrah, Mahazat as-Sayd, Uruq Bani Ma?arid (Saudi Arabia); Arabian Oryx Sanctuary (Oman); and South Bahrain Island (Bahrain); although not formally designated as a PA, access to Hawar Island is restricted.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Goitered gazelles occasionally damage agricultural plants such as cotton. They also consume saxaul shoots, which is considered one of the most valuable desert plants throughout the goitered gazelles geographic range. In spring and fall, they often intrude into domestic sheep pastures.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Goitered gazelles are hunted for their meat and hide, which is considered high quality and is processed into chamois and box calf. A single goitered gazelle yields between 12 and 18 kg of meat and 0.6 to 0.7 m^2 of hide. Goitered gazelle are hunted for sport, challenging hunters with their ability to run at high speeds. In addition, they are sometimes used as pets or given as gifts.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; body parts are source of valuable material
The goitered or black-tailed (Gazella subgutturosa) is a gazelle found in northern Azerbaijan, part of Iran, parts of Iraq and southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Turkey, Afghanistan and the Gobi Desert. The specific name, meaning "full below the throat", refers to the male having an enlargement of the neck and throat during the mating season.
The goitered gazelle inhabits sands and gravel plains and limestone plateau. It runs at high speed, without the leaping, bounding gait seen in other gazelle species. Throughout much of their range, goitered gazelles migrate seasonally. Herds cover 10–30 km per day in the winter, with these distances being reduced to about 1–3 km in summer.
Until recently, goitered gazelles were considered to represent a single, albeit polymorphic, species. However, recent genetic studies show one of the subspecies, G. s. marica, is paraphyletic in respect to the other populations of goitered gazelles, although gene introgression is observed in the contact zone between the two species.
Several subspecies have been described. Groves & Leslie (2011) distinguish four forms, which they treat as separate monotypic species. Wacher et al.  suggest G. s. marica is a separate species, Gazella marica.
- Persian gazelle (Gazella (subgutturosa) subgutturosa) - southeastern Turkey, Azerbaijan, Syria, northern and eastern Iraq, Iran, southern Afghanistan, western Pakistan
- Turkmen gazelle (Gazella (subgutturosa) gracilicornis) - Kazakhstan in the east to about Lake Balkash, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan
- Yarkand gazelle (Gazella (subgutturosa) yarkandensis) - northern and northwestern China (Xinjiang, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Gansu, Nei Monggol), Mongolia; includes subspecies hilleriana
- Sand gazelle (Gazella (subgutturosa) marica) - Saudi Arabia, southern Syria, southwestern Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Oman, offshore Persian Gulf islands
- Mallon (2005). Gazella subgutturosa. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 10 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is vulnerable
- Amos, Jonathan (19 April 2011). "Gazelles caught in ancient Syrian 'killing zones'". BBC News. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- Role of mass-kill hunting strategies in the extirpation of Persian gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) in the northern Levant. Guy Bar-Oz, Melinda Zeder, and Frank Hole. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010.
- Wacher T, Wronski T, Hammond RL, Winney B, Blacket MJ, Hundertmark KJ, Mohammed OB, Omer SA, Macasero W, Lerp H, Plath M, Bleidor C (2011) Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences reveals polyphyly in the goitered gazelle(Gazella subgutturosa). Conserv Genet 12:827–831
- Murtskhvaladze M, Gurielidze Z, Kopaliani N, Tarkhnishvili D (2012) Gene introgression between Gazella subguturrosa and G. marica: limitations of maternal inheritance analysis for species identification with conservation purposes. Acta Theriologica DOI 10.1007/s13364-012-0079-8
- C. P. Groves, D. M. Leslie Jr. (2011). Family Bovidae (Hollwo-horned Ruminants). (585-588). In: Wilson, D. E., Mittermeier, R. A., (Hrsg.). Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2: Hooved Mammals. Lynx Edicions, 2009. ISBN 978-84-96553-77-4
Male of the Persian subspecies (G. s. subgutturosa) at Korkeasaari Zoo
Female (G. s. yarkandensis) in Gobi Desert
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