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||180-260 kg (397-573 lb)
||240-356 kg (529 - 785 lb)
||1.40-1.55 m (4.6-5.1 ft)
||1.42-1.59 m (4.7-5.2 ft)
||2.5 m (8 ft) average for both sexes
||30-42 cm (12-17 in)
Data sources: Hart (2013)
- Medium sized, extremely shy, even-toed ruminant related to giraffes
- Adapted for dense forest living
- Smaller than giraffes, with shorter necks (but necks still longer than most ruminants)
- Okapi backs are nearly level, while giraffe backs slope markedly towards the rear.
- Long skull, large black eyes, large ears
- Teeth show giraffe-like pattern with large gap between incisors and premolars.
- 32 teeth
- Enamel is rough or wrinkled, like giraffes'
- Canine teeth are lobed, as are those of giraffes; lobes most obvious in unworn teeth of calves.
- Large bony capsule enclosing the middle ear bones (auditory bullae), common to many forest-dwelling ruminants (Colbert 1938)
- These ear bones enhance hearing (plains-dwelling giraffes have much smaller auditory bullae).
- Can hear and transmit low-frequency sounds below audible range for humans, according to studies in 1992 at the San Diego Zoo and White Oak Conservation Center, Florida. (Lindsey et al 1999)
- Large sinuses in palate
- Muzzle is narrow, nearly pointed, lips mobile and muscular; together with tongue these adaptations well suited to selective feeding on preferred plants.
- Long, prehensile tongue (proportionally longer than the giraffe's).
- Dark-bluish colored with pointed extremity, smooth base, and papillae on surface.
- Can be extended 25 cm beyond snout to groom whole body, even wiping the eyes, cleaning the ears and nostrils.
- Skin-covered horn-like ossicones
- Permanent (not shed, like horns)
- Giraffes also have ossicones
- Poor eyesight
- Cervical vertebrae not as elongated as in the giraffe.
- Five sacral (lower back) vertebrae (3-4 in giraffe)
- Only three tarsal (ankle area) bones; giraffes have four tarsal bones.
- Unlike giraffe, okapi has glands between toes on all 4 feet.
- Reddish-brown to black, velvety pelage on body and face.
- Black muzzle and nostrils.
- Long, thick eyelashes
- Calf has long hairs around eyes or "false eyelashes" that disappear in time.
- Tapered white or creamy white horizontal stripes on rear and upper front legs
- Anklets and stockings of white on lower legs (perhaps enabling other okapi to easily follow through dark forests as they have poor eyesight).
- Cheeks, throat and rear-most belly are whitish to gray or tan.
- Newborns have similar color and pelage; mane is conspicuous and is largely lost by adulthood
- Hairs of white stripes are longer than hairs in dark stripes
- Males have skin-covered horns
- Females have no horns but do have "bumps" or hair whorls on head where horns would be; occasionally have rudimentary horns.
Other Physical and Physiological Characteristics
- Okapis have unusual chromosome numbers; rather the normal 46 chromosomes, numbers may be 45 or even 44 (Lindsey et al 1999)
- In other animals such variations are abnormal or fatal; okapis with such numbers are otherwise normal.
- Hybrids of okapis with other species not known.
Almost nothing is known about okapi anatomy and physiology.
Note the skin-covered ossicones. These show the okapi is related to giraffes, which also have these permanent horn-like projections.
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
Bodmer & Rabb (1992)
Dagg & Foster (1982)
Lindsey et al. (1999)
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