Every now and then I’ve sneaked a little commentary on colour into my posts and it’s time for another one. This time it’s on the delightful orange with white trim pattern that seem to turn up on occasion. While there are plenty of orange-red animals out there (tigers, orangs, maned wolves, foxes, coati) and at least a few of them with white parts, the ones I’ve been thinking about are the red river hog, congo buffalo and bongo. All three are fairly large herbivores (OK the hog less so, but it’s not a small animal) and all live in fairly dense forested environments in the Congo area. All three are predominantly orange with white ear tips and white ‘trim’ (white stripes for the bongo and hog, white tails for the hog and buffalo) and for the record all three have rather dark lower legs.
Some colour combinations or patterns are pretty obvious and have a clear function. Dappled coats are common in forests where they match the light pattern through the leaves. Desert animals tend to be pale and sandy colours, those in grasses tend to have stripes and so on. What I find interesting here is that you do have a set of species with relatively similar habits living in a similar environment and they have all convergently struck on a very similar coat pattern.
White ear tassels and tails are often considered signalling structures which makes sense in a dark environment. But why orange and the dark legs? It seems too much of a coincidence (but of course still could be) that they all share this coat colour pattern given the shared behaviour and environment, but I can’t think what it might be. I’ve had a chat to a few colleagues and no one seems to have any concrete ideas but it’s something that’s been buzzing in my brain for a while and features several of my favourite animals, so it’s a good excuse to put these up and muse a little on colour patterns.