By: John A Byers
300 pages, 41 b/w photos, 111 line illus, 4 tabs
Pronghorn antelope are the fastest runners in North America, clocked at speeds of up to 100km per hour. Yet none of their current predators come close to matching them for speed. They also gather in groups for safety. But again, none of their predators is fearsome enough to merit such a response. Byers argues that such apparently mystifying behaviour evolved in response to the dangerous predators with whom the pronghorn shared their grassland home for nearly four million years: among them fleet hyaenas, lions, and cheetahs. Although these predators died out ten thousand years ago, pronghorn still behave as if they were still present. Byer's hypothesis extends to other animals - are their adaptations haunted by selective pressures from predators past?
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