This Season’s Summer Style: Dusky Dewlaps!

by | Aug 10, 2023 | Watatunga Blog

The Dewlap: What is it and what does it do?

The dewlap is a longitudinal flap of skin or similar flesh that hangs beneath the lower jaw or neck of many vertebrates. It is found in a variety of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

The function of the dewlap varies depending on the species of animal. In some animals, the dewlap is thought to help regulate body temperature, help to store fat or is thought to be used for signaling or display.

The Dewlap of the Common Eland

The common eland (Tragelaphus oryx) is the largest antelope in Africa. It is found in savannas and open woodlands in eastern and southern Africa. Our common eland here at Watatunga has a distinctive dewlap that hangs from his neck. The dewlap is thought to serve a variety of functions, including:

  • Regulating body temperature: The dewlap is well-vascularized, meaning that it has a lot of blood vessels. This allows the dewlap to absorb heat from the body and then release it into the air. This helps to keep eland cool in hot weather.
  • Storing fat: The dewlap is also made up of fat cells. These fat cells can store energy, which can be used by the eland during times of food scarcity. This is especially important for eland that live in areas with a dry season, when food may be scarce.
  • Protecting the neck: The dewlap also protects the neck of the eland from injury. The neck is a vulnerable area for animals, as it is a major blood vessel and nerve center. In addition to this, the dewlap helps to protect the neck from bites from predators, such as lions and leopards.
  • Signaling to other eland: The dewlap can also be used to signal to other eland. For example, males may use their dewlaps to attract females during mating season, but also to communicate dominance or submission.
Common eland by Phil Stone

In addition to the common eland, there are many other animals that have dewlaps. Some of these animals include:

Giraffe: The giraffe is the tallest land animal in the world and has a small dewlap that hangs from its neck.

Okapi: The okapi is a relative of the giraffe and has a small dewlap that hangs from its neck. 

Impala: The impala is a medium-sized antelope that has a small dewlap that hangs from its neck. 

Zebu: The zebu is a type of cattle that has a large, pendulous dewlap that hangs from its neck. 

Dog: Some dogs, such as bloodhounds and mastiffs, have a dewlap that hangs from their necks. 

Rabbit: Some rabbits, such as Flemish giants, have a dewlap that hangs from their necks.

All of which are thought to help each animal to regulate its body temperature and store fat.

Common eland by Phil Stone

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