Abigail Klein Leichman
October 19

Hyraxes, also known as rock badgers, are common in the rocky hills across Israel.

A social animal living in colonies of up to 80 individuals, hyraxes look like rodents but surprisingly they’re not – they are actually related to manatees and elephants.

The latest hyrax surprise revealed by researchers from Bar-Ilan University’s Wildlife Hormones and Behavioral Ecology Lab has to do with the courtship song sung by male hyraxes.

That they sing at all is unusual among terrestrial mammals.

Prof. Lee Koren and her team found that male hyraxes that sing frequently and can maintain an isochronous rhythm – singing notes at repetitively equal time intervals — achieve greater reproductive success.

The findings, published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Animal Ecology, suggest that male hyraxes with the best rhythmic structure and stability end up with the most offspring that survive beyond a year. In general, only 10 percent of hyrax pups survive that long.

Apparently, superior singing skill among courting males conveys a message to females about who are the most eligible (that is, healthy) bachelors in the pack.

The researchers gathered their data over the course of more than 10 years of tracking and recording hyrax populations at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve north of the Dead Sea. They made audio recordings of the mating songs of 25 individuals.

Their analysis also revealed that the animals’ language is marked by regional dialects and their mating songs get progressively louder toward the finishing notes.

In addition to Koren, the team included Eli Geffen, Vlad Demartsev, Amiyaal Ilany, Michal Haddas-Sasson and Eli Geffen.

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