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Text: Prehistoric Animals.
Photo: Saiga, Saiga tatarica.
Saiga, Saiga tatarica
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Where are they found? AsiaNorth America

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Saigas are relatively small, light, buff-coloured animals about the size and shape of pronghorns (Antilocapra americana). They stand 60 to 70 cm (23 to 27 in.) tall at the shoulder, and weigh 26 to 32 kg (57 to 70 lb.).

Their inflated snouts allow them to breathe efficiently in arid, dusty conditions. Males bear spindly, lyre-shaped horns, whereas females usually lack horns. Their coats are thick and woolly, so they can readily adapt to cold conditions. When alarmed, they can reach speeds up to 70 km/h (43 MPH), thereby making it difficult for predators, such as wolves, to catch them.

Today, saigas are confined to dry steppes and semi-deserts of Russia, preferring to live in open areas with solid ground. However, in the Pleistocene Epoch they spread eastward across the Bering Isthmus to Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories (where the first Canadian specimen was found on a beach at Baillie Islands).

American saigas probably died out about 12 000 years ago because of rapid changes in climate and plantscapes occurring then, as former steppe-like terrain was replaced by spruce forest and tundra.

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“Saiga”. [Online]. Natural History Notebooks. Canadian Museum of Nature.
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