The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) seems to qualify as possessing a facial flag, but not a caudal flag


Also see and

Bigalke (1972,, on page 336, states, under the heading "HEAD TOSSING":

"springbok often toss the head as they move off, commonly at a fast trot, when alarmed. The movement is pronounced, the head being lowered to near the ground and raised again repeatedly. It appears in other gaits as well...Head tossing is an important element of the stott and also appears in the proud trot."

Has this behaviour ever been photographed or filmed, beyond inadvertent coverage as part of stotting? (


From the viewpoint of adaptive colouration, I hypothesise that the whitish pelage, covering most of the face in adults of the springbok, constitutes a facial flag (a term I have recently coined, 50 years after this paper by Bigalke was published).

All flags, in the sense of adaptive colouration in mammals, are by definition activated by motion. In this case, the activation is partly by means of head-tossing, as described by Bigalke.

The facial flag of the springbok has an ontogenetic component, being absent at birth, and fully-developed in adulthood.

The fawn-coloured markings on the face in infants and juveniles ( tend to disappear in adulthood, in both sexes.

The following are particularly clear illustrations of the difference in facial colouration between infants and their mothers:

First photo in

The following show the progressive loss of the fawn (ground-colour) from the face, with the age of the individual:



Juvenile just after horns appear:

Adult female:

Adult male:


On page 335 of the same publication, Bigalke (1972) states:

"Walther points out that the tail of all gazelles is an extremely mobile organ. In the springbok, the tail is moved from side to side incessantly while the animals feed or walk about. Tense situations, as for example when a resting herd is disturbed and the animals rise and watch the intruder, also produce active tail wagging. In flight, on the other hand, the tail is pressed up against the body between the haunches, as in Grant's gazelle (Walther 1968)."

The following hardly support Bigalke's observation that the tail is routinely wagged during walking:

The following do support Bigalke's observations, but show how inconspicuous the tail is, even in motion:

In terms of adaptive colouration, a caudal flag consists of a pattern of dark, pale, or dark/pale contrast, on and adjacent to the tail, that is not necessarily conspicuous in the stationary figure, but becomes conspicuous in motion, even at some distance.

The springbok differs from most other gazelles in that its tail

Therefore, even when the springbok wags its tail in normal activity, and in mild alarm, this does not necessarily mean that this signal is significantly amplified by the colouration of the tail. A good example of such amplification is instead seen in the goitred gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), in which the pattern is far more graphic than in the springbok (

The following shows the maximum development of the dark tassel of the tail in the springbok ( However, once again, contrary to Bigalke, it is not activated during routine walking.

My findings, therefore, are that the springbok

  • qualifies as possessing a facial flag (in adolescents and adults of both sexes, not in infants or juveniles), but
  • does not qualify as possessing a caudal flag (owing to the tail being too slight, too inflexible, and too inert for the combination of whitish tail-stalk and dark tassel to add much to the conspicuousness of the figure).
Publicado el febrero 24, 2023 11:56 MAÑANA por milewski milewski


Publicado por milewski hace alrededor de 1 año

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