W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running!” – African proverb
When the male Springbok (a South African antelope – Antidorcas marsupialis) is showing off his strength to attract a mate, or to ward off predators, he starts off in a stiff-legged trot, jumping up into the air with an arched back every few paces and lifting the flap along his back. Lifting the flap causes the long white hairs under the tail to stand up in a conspicuous fan shape, which in turn emits a strong floral scent of sweat. This ritual is known as “pronking” comes from the Afrikaans, meaning to boast or “strut” and is a cognate of the English verb “prance.” Also known as ‘stotting’.
This behaviour is rather fool-hardy, as stotting reduces the lead distance and speed of the pursued animal, and thus makes it easier for the predator to catch. This apparently maladaptive behaviour may signal to the predator or potential mates its comparative fitness as a form of boasting or taunting, and so therefore may be an evolutionarily selected behaviour or anti-predator adaptation.