Duikers earned their name for their tendency to flee in a series of diving jumps or to duck for cover beneath bushes and in fallen tree trunks when frightened. The name is derived from the Afrikaans word for diver. Most duiker species are nocturnal, foraging for food and surveying their territory from dusk to dawn. They remain sedentary during the daylight hours, often hidden inside hollow trees or behind fallen trunks.

In addition to being skittish, both male and female duikers are highly territorial animals. They are typically found alone, in pairs, or in pairs with one youngster, and they live in precisely defined habitats. Some species have fixed core territories with dynamic boundaries that overlap with other pairs, while others keep stricter borders. Duikers will patrol their territories alone or in pairs, and chase away any intruders. In zoos, male duikers are intolerant of other males and they fight violently if housed in the same pen. Females seem more tolerant of one another in captive settings.

Duikers mark their territorial boundaries, their mates, and their calf with olfactory cues secreted from the maxillary glands, located below the eye. Pedal glands, located within the hooves, and feces also serve as territorial scent markers. Bucks mutually mark by pressing their glands against each other prior to fighting.

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