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Pronghorn


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Pronghorns are the fastest mammals in North America; they can run over 50 miles per hour (80 kph). These graceful mammals are the only living animal with doubly-branched horns. Pronghorns are closely related to antelopes. They live in both small and large herds in western North American grasslands and semi-deserts. Females give birth to twins in the spring. Pronghorns have a life span of about 7 years in captivity.

Communication: When a Pronghorn is alarmed, its hair stands up on end, revealing more white on its rump. Also, scent glands near the tail produce a stong-smelling liquid. These signals let other pronghorns know that danger is near. The scent glands are also used by males to mark territory.

Anatomy: Pronghorns have a coarse tan/brown and white coat. They are roughly 3 ft (91 cm) tall at the shoulder; they weigh from 90 to 150 pounds (41-68 kg). Pronghorns have large eyes and ears; they use their sense of sight and hearing to detect their predators (which include coyotes and bobcats). The Pronghorn's eyes are on the sides of its head, allowing it to see predators coming from both sides.

Horns: Male Pronghorns have two-pronged horns up to 1 ft (30 cm) long. Females have smaller, non-pronged horns; some females have no horns at all. The outer covering (the sheath) of the horns is shed yearly.

Diet: Pronghorns are herbivores (plant-eaters). They eat shrubs and grass, spending most of their time grazing. Pronghorns are ruminants; they swallow their food without chewing it. After a while, they regurgitate a partly-digested "cud" which they chew and then swallow for the last time.

Classification: Class Mammalia, Order Artiodactyla (even-toed hooves), Family Antilocapridae, Genus and speciesAntilocapra americana.

Evolution: The early ruminant artiodactyls developed from creodonts in the late Eocene Epoch, about 40 million years ago. Antilocapra (the pronghorn) is the only surviving member of the family Antilocapridae (whose members appeared during the Miocene). Some early antilocaprids include Ilingceros (late Miocene Epoch) and Hayoceros (mid-Pleistocene Epoch).

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