I was on National Geographic's snapchat story a few days ago and saw these adorable little guys staring back at me:
They're called Rock Hyraxes. The reason you haven't seen them running around campus (or anywhere else in California) is because they are native to Africa, living in rocky scrubland throughout the majority of the country. They live in groups of around 25 and create burrows they spend the nights and excessively temperate parts of the day in. They have trouble maintaining their body temperature in the extremely variable climate of the African shrublands reaching up to 120ºF during the day but dropping to 20ºF at night. They spend most of the day sunbathing and huddle together when it gets cold at night. They are also extremely agile and have rubber-like pads on their feet, enabling them to scale even super steep, smooth rocks.
As cool as all that is, it's not even the best part: guess what their closest living relative is??? I could probably give you ten-thousand guesses and elephant probably wouldn't be one, but that's the answer. These guys are larger than they appear in the pictures, reaching about 1 to 2 feet in length and 10 lbs, but elephants??? That's just insane!!! Obviously, I wasn't going to believe something so outlandish off the word of a snapchat story, even if it was National Geographic's snapchat story, so I looked it up. As it turns out the elephant's closest living relatives are the hyrax and sea cows (eg dugongs and manatees), both of which are quite surprising. I can kind of see the resemblance between elephant's and sea cows, but hyraxes look like very strange, adorable rodents.
You can see their tiny pseudo-tusks in this significantly less cute (still adorable though) picture:
Here are more pictures
(all from http://elelur.com/mammals/rock-hyrax.html)
Check them out for yourself at http://elelur.com/mammals/rock-hyrax.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyrax