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Marafil

In Neocene South Africa appeared separated from Holarctic zoogeographic area by the zone of impassable tropical woods. They had appeared when East Africa (Zinj Land) had separated from the main part of the continent, and the area of dry climate had considerably reduced because of evaporation of water from Tanganyica Passage. The majority of groups of herbivores appeared in Neocene had not got here; therefore Southern Africa became one of places where many representatives of hoofed mammal fauna characteristic for Ethiopic zoogeographic area had kept. In South Africa in savanna descendants of water chevrotains similar to deer wander, and tall descendants of dwarf duiker antelopes similar to primitive giraffes browse foliage of trees. Representatives of animal kingdom of new epoch – huge descendants of pigs armed with massive bone outgrowths on head – also are found here. By the efficiency ecosystem of Southern Africa does not concede to North African savannas of early historical epoch. The abundance of catch involves various predators, and relative stability of this region had allowed to some representatives of Holocene fauna of predators to be kept in South Africa. Among civets and cats of South Africa one local predator looks separated – it is the last representative of hyenas’ family. This family had been widely distributed in Eurasia in Holocene. Till the ice age some of its representatives had wandered in snow-covered woods of Europe, tolerating severe winters. But after mass extinction of hoofed mammals in the areas mastered by people the area of family was sharply reduced. In historical epoch the family was submitted only by five species, one of which was extremely rare. Awfulest marafil (“marafil” is the Arabian name of hyaena), the descendant of spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) widely settled in past, lives in South Africa This animal represents the deification of “predator” concept, doubtlessly occupying the top of food pyramid in local ecosystems. Awfulest marafil is the largest species of hyenas among ever dwelt on Earth, and, obviously, it is the largest representative of the carnivore order in Neocene. Growth of the adult female at a shoulder reaches two meters at weight about 700 kgs. Male is smaller, rather than female: it weighs about 500 kgs and differs in lighter constitution. By the appearance marafil resembles fossil Arctodus bear dwelt in Pleistocene at the territory of North America. The female of marafil differs in sloping back (back legs are shorter a little, rather than front ones) and wide chest. Forepaws at it are very muscular – with their help the animal knocks prey off feet. Feet at the female of marafil are rather wide due to what animal can chase prey on marshy ground. At the animal there is short tail with hairy brush of lengthened hair on the tip. At marafil there is short head with powerful high jaws. Canines are rather short; molars and premolars of animal work as crushing tool – marafil female can shatter the backbone of rhinoceros-sized prey by one bite. The skin of marafil female is covered with rough short wool of brown color. There are vertical strips of black color on shoulders and sides and some black spots on hips (sometimes they may be absent). Wool on head of animal is black, but around of mouth there is a strip of white wool – this attribute has the important value at the communication of animals. Marafils, especially females of this species, are rather aggressive animals, and in many cases it is vital for them to be able to distinguish mood of the congener from afar to behave in appropriate way. Very sharp sexual dimorphism is characteristic for marafils. It is shown not only in difference of body sizes, but even in colouring. Skin of marafil male is grey with numerous black spots merging on shoulders to vertical strips. On the neck of male there is a mane of long grey hair. Males look more harmonous and long-legged, rather than females and can run much faster. Also at the male there is longer and narrow muzzle with more advanced canines which partly jut out from closed mouth.  Males live and hunt in packs of ten individuals, living mainly at the boundary of territories of female clans. They do not make constant refuges, and spend the night in the same place no more than two nights in succession. Females of marafils, on the contrary, make constant lairs in bush and come back there every day. They lodge in clans of 4 – 5 individuals connected by consanguinty (as a rule, it is the female and her senior daughters). The number of marafil males in population is smaller, than the number of females: it is connected with the high mortality level of these animals at young age. When young marafils grow up, young females dominate over males compelled to be content with the rests of their catch. When the young marafil male reaches about one-year-old age, it is expelled from clan, and some time it leads single life, eating the scraps had remained after hunting of parental clan. Groups of marafil males can unite, forming male packs. Sexual dimorphism of marafils is shown also in hunting preferences: there are different catch and different hunting tactics at males and females. Females chase mainly sluggish catch – huge bullhogs. Males prefer to hunt swift-footed hoofed mammals, badgering them by pack like wolves. Hunting habits at different genders also differ – females hunt at night, attacking resting and feeding animals, and use during hunting sharp sense of smell. Males hunt in day time with the help of sight. Marafil females being in group are very aggressive to neighbours. It happens they can attack males of their own species, kill and eat them as if other prey. Therefore pairing at marafils occurs outside of territory of female clan. For pairing males mark with urine objects well appreciable from afar (for example, lonely growing tree, large stone or termitary) at the edge of territory of females, and wait for female near this place. Thus they drive other males off from the marked sign. Also males leave some of labels at the territory where the female clan lives. Usually they do at the afternoon before females will leave on hunting. But at the same time males try to keep together and to be on alert. They succeed to have a sleep only in second half of night and in the morning approximately till midday when females come back home from hunting. The female ready to pairing leaves clan, finds the site marked by males, and males pair with it by turns. Before pairing the female shows absence of aggression to males: she lowers head and presses ears. Males showing the superiority run near her by whole pack with lifted heads and occasionally bite the female to shoulders and groats. Similarly to all large animals, marafils breed seldom: each female gives rise to posterity alternate years. Pregnancy lasts about half-year, and cubs are born to the beginning of rain season. They suck milk till four – five months, but start to try meat food at the third month of life. In litter at one marafil female it happens three – four cubs. Usually only half of posterity survives up to independence. Young females become able to breeding at the age of 4 years, and males since 3 years. Life expectancy at females of this species reaches 50 years and more, and males seldom live up to 40 years.

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