Gazella saudiya


Kingdom Animalia

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Phylum Chordata 
Class Mammalia
Order Artiodactyla
Family Bovidae
Subfamily Antilopinae
Genus Gazella
Species Gazella saudiya
Authority Carruthers & Schwarz, 1935
English Name Saudi Gazelle
Dutch Name Saudigazelle
French Name Gazelle Saoudienne
German Name Saudi-Gazelle
Spanish Name Gacela Saudi
Synonyms Gazella dorcas saudiya (Carruthers & Schwarz, 1935)
Taxonomy Grubb in Wilson and Reeder (1993) treats this as a subspecies of Gazella dorcas, but there appears to be good evidence to maintain it as a distinct species. (Participants at 4th International Conservation Workshop for the Threatened Fauna of Arabi 2003) Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research from museum samples collected from the wild prior to the presumed extinction of this species, shows that the Saudi Gazelle is a sister taxon of the African Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas). The mtDNA and morphological distinctiveness suggest that the Saudi Gazelle is an evolutionarily significant unit. (Hammond et al. 2001) The chromosome numbers and karyotypes of Saudi gazelle (2n = 47 female, 2n = 50/51 male) are too different from Dorcas gazelle (2n = 30 female, 2n = 31 male) for them to be considered a subspecies. It is also unlikely that these species would interbreed. (Rebholz et al. 1991)
Characteristics The Saudi Gazelle has shorter legs than the Dorcas Gazelle and is lighter in colour. It has a faint or absent flank and pygal stripes. The ears are pale buff and this gazelle has no nose spot. The light face stripes are buff white. (Qumsiyeh, 1996)
Range & Habitat This gazelle formerly occurred widely in the Arabian Peninsula from Kuwait to the borders of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Most records are from the western part of Saudi Arabia. Reports of occurrence in Syria and Iraq are unconfirmed and doubtful (Mallon and Kingswood 2001). A record from Amman in Jordan (Harrison and Bates 1991) refers to a specimen found in excavations of an ancient human settlement, there is no evidence that the species occurred naturally there (Mallon and Kingswood 2001). It may be impossible to determine natural limits of the historical distribution of the Saudi Gazelle, because of the age-old practice in Arabia of keeping gazelles as pets and trading them over long distances (Mallon and Kingswood 2001). The Saudi Gazelle occurred on gravel and sandy plains (Dunham et al. 2001).

Image: map with the possible historical distribution of the Saudi Gazelle (in red). Based on records and sightings of the Saudi Gazelle in Saudi Arabia (Thouless et al. 1991) and records in Yemen (Harrison and Bates 1991). Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

History There have been no specimens collected or sightings of the Saudi Gazelle for several decades despite surveys in areas of former habitat (Participants at 4th International Conservation Workshop for the Threatened Fauna of Arabi 2003)
Captive Populations Recent genetic analysis of all reported specimens of the Saudi Gazelle in captive collections has shown that these represent different species or hybrids (Hammond et al. 2001). Rebholz and Harley (1997) suggested that Saudi Gazelles have been hybridised with the Chinkara or Indian Gazelle Gazella bennetti. However the sequence they had reported as Gazella saudiya in their analysis did not correspond to DNA extracted from "real" Gazella saudiya, the specimens in the British Museum (Hammond et al. 2001). Probably the live animal are actually hybrids between Gazella bennetti and nominate Gazella subgutturosa, but more data is needed to confirm this (Wacher, T. pers. comm. 2007). To date no "real" Gazella saudiya haplotypes, matching the original museum material, have been recovered from any living animal. Therefore not even hybrids of the Saudi gazelle are actually known among live animals (Wacher, T. pers. comm. 2007).

There remains the very faint possibility that hitherto unreported individuals may occur in captivity, though the chances of discovering any are decreasing steadily with time. (Participants at 4th International Conservation Workshop for the Threatened Fauna of Arabi 2003) Scientists recommend that field surveys be undertaken to establish whether the Saudi Gazelle is indeed extinct in the wild and that other private collections within the Arabian peninsula be screened genetically (Hammond et al. 2001).

Extinction Causes The main cause of decline is over-hunting. (Hammond et al. 2001).
Conservation Attempts If the few purported pure populations remaining in captivity prove to be indeed pure, they would provide excellent candidates for captive breeding and eventual reintroduction to the wild. Genetic data indicate that captive populations identified previously as potential sources of Gazella saudiya for captive breeding appear incorrectly designated and are irrelevant to the conservation of the Saudi Gazelle (Hammond et al. 2001).

Until now no pure living Saudi Gazelle has been discovered in captive populations. Scientists recommend extensive field surveys in remote areas of the Arabian peninsula and thorough screening of the remaining individuals in private collections in a final concerted effort to identify potential sources of the Saudi Gazelle for captive breeding and reintroduction (Hammond et al. 2001).

Museum Specimens Dried skins of the Saudi Gazelle can be found in the collection of the Natural History Museum in London, United Kingdom. (Hammond et al. 2001)
Relatives The closest relatives of the Saudi Gazelle are the Dorcas Gazelle, Gazella dorcas (Kumamoto et al. 1995; Rebholz & Harley 1997; Hammond et al. 2001; Rebholz et al. 1991). Data shows that while the museum skins of the Saudi gazelle suggest that they are distinctive, but close relatives of Gazella dorcas , and that they are not particularly related to the Chinkara or Indian Gazelle, Gazella bennetti (Hammond et al. 2001). 

Photo: Dorcas Gazelle in Hannover Zoo in Germany. Photographed by Frithjof Spangenberg. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 Licence. This image can also be seen at Wikimedia Commons.

Links IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Gazella saudiya
References Carruthers, D., and E. Schwarz. 1935. On a new gazelle from central Arabia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1935: 155–156.

Dunham, K.M., Williamson, D.T. and Joubert, E. 2001. Saudi Arabia. In: D.P. Mallon and S.C. Kingswood (compilers). Antelopes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans, pp. 55-62. IUCN, Gland.

Hammond, Robert L., Macasero, William, Flores, Benito, Mohammed, Osama B., Wacher, Tim & Bruford, Michael W. (2001). Phylogenetic Reanalysis of the Saudi Gazelle and Its Implications for Conservation. Conservation Biology 15 (4), 1123-1133.

Harrison, D.L. and Bates, P.J.J. 1991. The mammals of Arabia. Second edition.Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, England.

Kumamoto A. T., Kingswood S. C., Rebholz W. E. R., Houck M. L. 1995. The chromosomes of Gazella bennetti and Gazella saudiya. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde  60, (3), 159-169.

Mallon, D.P. and Kingswood, S.C. (compilers). 2001. Antelopes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans. SSC Antelope Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Participants at 4th International Conservation Workshop for the Threatened Fauna of Arabi 2003. Gazella saudiya. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 07 October 2006.

Qumsiyeh, M. B. 1996. Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press.

Rebholz, W. E. R. & Harley, E. H. (1997). Cytochrome b Sequences from the Endangered Saudi Gazelle (Gazella Saudiya) Suggest Hybridization with Chinkara (G. bennetti). Conservation Biology 11 (1), 251-255.

Rebholz, Wilhelmus E. R., Douglas Williamson, Frank Rietkerk. 1991. Saudi gazelle (Gazella saudiya) is not a subspecies of Dorcas gazelle. Zoo Biology 10 (6), 485-489.

Thouless, C.R., Grainger, J.G., Shobrak, M., and Habibi, K. 1991.Conservation status of gazelles in Saudi Arabia. Biological Conservation 58:85–98.

Wacher, T. 2007. Wildlife Biologist of the Zoological Society of London. Personal communication.

Last updated: 20th December 2008.

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