The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is a species from the Choeropsis genus. It is native to the forests and swamps of western Africa in Liberia and small populations in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
Taxonomy and origins
Pygmy hippos share the same general form as a hippopotamus. They have a graviportal skeleton, with four stubby legs and four toes on each foot, supporting a portly frame. The pygmy hippo, however, is only half as tall as the hippopotamus and weighs less than 1/4 as much as its larger cousin. Adult pygmy hippos stand about 75–83 cm (30–32 inches) high at the shoulder, are 150–177 cm (59–70 inches) in length and weigh 180–275 kilograms (400–600 pounds). Their lifespan in captivity ranges from 30 to 55 years, though it is unlikely that they live this long in the wild.
The behavior of the pygmy hippo differs from the common hippo in many ways. Much of its behavior is more similar to that of a tapir, though this is an effect of convergent evolution. While the common hippopotamus is gregarious, pygmy hippos live either alone or in small groups, typically a mated pair or a mother and calf. Pygmy hippos tend to ignore each other rather than fight when they meet. Field studies have estimated that male pygmy hippos range over 1.85 km2 (460 acres), while the range of a female is 0.4 to 0.6 km2 (100–150 acres).
Pygmy hippos spend most of the day hidden in rivers. They will rest in the same spot for several days in a row, before moving to a new spot. At least some pygmy hippos make use of dens or burrows that form in river banks. It is unknown if the pygmy hippos help create these dens, or how common it is to use them. Though a pygmy hippo has never been observed burrowing, other artiodactyls, such as warthogs, are burrowers.
Like the common hippopotamus, the pygmy hippo emerges from the water at dusk to feed. It relies on game trails to travel through dense forest vegetation. The pygmy hippo spends about six hours a day foraging for food. Pygmy hippos are herbivorous. They do not eat aquatic vegetation to a significant extent and rarely eat grass because it is uncommon in the thick forests they inhabit. The bulk of a pygmy hippo's diet consists of ferns, broad-leaved plants and fruits that have fallen to the forest floor. The wide variety of plants pygmy hippos have been observed eating suggests that they will eat any plants available. This diet is of higher quality than that of the common hippopotamus.
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