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Venthyrx

In epochs of climatic changes some types of vegetative communities may completely disappear, dooming to extinction the significant part of species connected to them. But at restoration of acceptable conditions of inhabiting settling of again formed community can proceed by two ways. In one case it is occupied with descendants of relic species had escaped in few “refuges” where the former vegetation had kept. In other cases new habitats are accustomed by the species earlier not dwelt here. It had taken place, for example, at the East African subcontinent (Zinj Land) where in tropical rainforests the original analogue of sloth descending from one local group of animals had appeared. For Zinj Land the special family of climbing damans, not meeting in continental Africa, is typical. Its characteristic representative is ashkoko (Ashkoko sylvaticus) - animal similar by constitution to loris - Asian prosimians of Holocene epoch. But this animal is not so specialized to tree-climbing habit of life, as ventrohyrax – another animal living in the neighbourhood. The name “ventrohyrax” means “a stomach of daman” and emphasizes characteristic position of this animal – upwards a stomach. Ventrohyrax hangs under the branch similarly to South-American sloths, for what it had received another name – “Zinj sloth”.  In connection to unusual way of life in anatomy of ventrohyrax there is a number of interesting features. Paws of animal are adapted to clinging to branches – they are rather long, and the structure of hand and foot differs in prominent features. Hand and foot of animal are lengthened (their length is about one third of general length of the extremity), along their bottom side strong sinews stretch, which are attached to strong muscles. For attaching of muscles on paws bones of ventrohyrax crests giving to bones fantastical appearance are advanced. Fingers of ventrohyrax are very long and tenacious – animal clings by them to branches, because claws became very small even at damans – far ancestors of these animals. On forepaw two fingers are kept (only 2-nd and 3-rd, and other ones, 1-st and 4-th fingers are reduced and do not touch to branch), on hinder leg all three toes are kept. Fingers and toes are bent like hooks; skin on palms and feet is naked, covered with cross plicas and callouses. Due to this adaptation animal easily moves even on prickly branches. At grabbing of branch muscles automatically contract, and very strong capture is formed: even the died animal remains hanging on branch, yet will the decomposition of corpse begins. Muscles of extremities of ventrohyrax have unusual dark red color: they contain many myoglobin – the substance accumulating oxygen, therefore they can work any time in “automatic mode”. Ventrohyrax spends all life among branches, and extremely seldom goes down to the ground. On the ground this animal is very clumsy: ventrohyrax bases on back surface of hooked fingers of forepaws and external lateral surface of foot (ends of toes are turned under the body). The animal walks on the ground slowly, and as soon as possible tries to find a tree suitable to life to appear again in world habitual for itself. The neck of ventrohyrax is very mobile; due to it animal can eat leaves around of itself, staying at one place. Muzzle of animal is short and wide; molars are tuberculous with wide masticatory surface. Chewing muscles of animal are well advanced: in case of necessity ventrohyrax can bite out small branches. Ventrohyrax had kept features of dental system characteristic for the daman: in each jaw it has two constantly growing self-sharpening incisors. Ventrohyrax is covered with shaggy wool – though it lives in tropical climate, it may easily catch a cold. In equatorial area each day rain may fall, and only foliage of trees protects ventrohyrax from it. And in wood canopy strong winds blow frequently. The wool of ventrohyrax is colored brown with darker separate locks, precisely imitating the pattern of wood bark. The wool of animal serves as fine masking. Only it and powerful impacts by claws are its unique protection against predators. Defending itself, animal seizes branch by hinder legs and defends by both front paws. Though ventrohyrax spends all life on branches in tropical forest canopy, this animal does not make risky and fascinating jumps from tree to tree, and in general it differs in slowness. At such habit of life three-dimensional sight, characteristic for damans, loses the value, but the wide field of view gets much more value for life. Therefore eyes of ventrohyrax look more in sides, than forward. Ventrohyrax leads rather simple way of life and consequently does not differ in high mental faculties. Its brain is too small, and brain department of skull is lengthened and low. Though the forest canopy is very productive part of tropical wood, here there is very rigid competition for food resources. In forest canopy a lot of different mammals, consuming various kinds of forage lives. The close relative of ventrohyrax, ashkoko, is omnivorous animal, and other climbing animal, sun flying fox of chiropters order, eats mainly fruits. Ventrohyrax does not compete to them due to the diet: this animal eats exclusively leaves. Being a sluggish animal, not needing for long jumps and fast climbing, and having no big expenses of energy, ventrohyrax eats poorly nutritious and hardly digestive leaves of plants. In such way it avoids a competition for food with other animals. The stomach of this animal is complex and consists of several chambers. In the most voluminous first chamber there is a food fermentation, in which symbiotic bacteria and protozoans help ventrohyrax. Ventrohyrax easily digests even dense leaves of figs, rich in rubber. This species is social; it keeps in tree crones in groups of one male and several adult females with cubs. The structure of these groups is changeable, and animals are not connected with strong ties of attachment (except for female and growing up cubs). Frequently groups of animals, travelling in forest, unite or break up. Also there are single males joining groups only for pairing. Two times per one year the female of ventrohyrax gives rise to one cub. It is well developed, covered with wool, with opened eyes. Color of wool at the cub is darker than at female. Till first days of life the cub clings to mother and eats only her milk. Starting approximately from the week age cub of ventrohyrax starts to try vegetative food. At first the female feeds it with slurry of belched and semidigested plants. Young animal receives so necessary gastric microflora. Gradually the cub passes to feed in vegetative forage. Young ventrohyrax becomes sexual matured approximately at the fourth year of life. Life expectancy of this animal reaches 30 – 35 years.

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