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Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius

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Origin and features

Common hippo, or hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) - one of the largest modern land animals: the weight of old males can exceed 4 tons, body length - 3.5 meters. Previously, pigs were considered the closest relatives of hippos, but modern studies have shown that they are actually cetaceans. And the hippos themselves are essentially semi-aquatic animals: they spend most of their lives in water, and they go to land only at night for several hours to feed. It is not surprising that the ancient Greeks called them “river horses” (the literal translation of the word “hippo”), the Arabs called “river buffaloes,” and the Egyptians even more precisely called “river pigs.” Hippos can stay under water for up to half an hour, although they usually dive only for 3-5 minutes, they swim, mostly raking with their hind legs, more often they just walk along the bottom, using their large specific gravity.

Appearance and nutrition

Torso hippo barrel-shaped, and the legs are very short and thick, with four toes covered with hooves, united by a small membrane. The huge quadrangular head of the river buffalo reaches a quarter of its total weight (up to 900 kg), the nostrils, eyes and ears are slightly raised and located in the same plane, so that the hippo can breathe, watch and hear, remaining almost completely under water and exposing only the very top of the head (f. 3). His eyes are small and surrounded by thick eyelids, and his very wide, upward nostrils are able to close tightly thanks to the fleshy edges and well-developed special muscles. The skin of this beast has virtually no hairline, and glands are located on it, secreting the secret of an unusual red color, similar to bloody sweat. This is a specific mucous lubricant that gives the skin elasticity and protects it from drying out on land and excessive swelling in water. The mouth of the hippo is also unique: it opens so that the angle between the jaws is about 150 degrees, the teeth are spaced rarely, the fangs on the lower jaw have no roots, grow throughout life and can reach a length of 65 cm.

Hippos feed mainly on lush vegetation growing along the banks of water bodies and eat up to 40 kg per day. Their extremely long (about 60 m) digestive tract and three-chambered stomach allow you to digest all this huge mass of fiber.

Social Behavior and Reproduction

Live hippos herds consisting of 10-20 females with cubs and one adult male. Single males are kept separate, they are quite aggressive and often arrange violent fights among themselves, accompanied by a loud roar, intimidation poses and confrontation with wide open mouths.

The female carries the fetus for about eight months and gives birth in shallow water. If the mother does not help the baby to emerge and take the first breath, he may choke (because he is not able to hold his breath longer than 40 seconds). After 5 minutes, the newborn hippo weighing about 50 kg can already stand on its feet, and after a day it begins to follow its mother (photo 1,2). It is amazing that a hippo baby is able to suck milk not only on land but also in water, while closing its nostrils and tightly pressing its ears (except for it only young true aquatic mammals - cetaceans and sirens) can do this. In the fourth month after birth, the hippo's teeth begin to cut, and from five months old he gradually learns to use a variety of vegetation in food. However, the female continues to feed him milk for a year. The baby remains with the mother until the next birth, and sometimes longer.

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