Wednesday, August 19, 2009

World's Smallest Deer

During his field study in the Myanmar’s Hukawng Valley in 1997, an American zoologist, Alan Rabinowitz, discovered a new species of Cervid. Rabinowitz was examining what he thought was a young deer carcass of another species; however, after further review and DNA analysis, it was actually the carcass of an adult female. This new species is called a “Leaf Muntjac.” It is also referred to as a Leaf Deer, or Putao muntjac, and is a small species of muntjac.

Leaf muntjacs are found in dense forest habitats and eat mostly fruits. An adult leaf muntjac stands at just 20 inches high at the shoulder and weighs less than 25 pounds. Both the male and female have distinct canine tusks. The only thing that can separate the look of a male from a female are the un-branched antlers that are about 1 inch in height. The young muntjacs remain hidden after birth until they can move around with their mother. An unusual feature about this species is their offspring do not bear any spots. Local hunters called it the “leaf deer” because the body could be completely wrapped by a single large leaf. This species is the world’s smallest known deer. The leaf muntjac population has reduced considerably due to hunting.

Leaf deer are not to be confused with the Muntjac, also known as Barking Deer, which appeared 15-35 million years ago. They get the nickname "barking deer" because they make a deep, bark like sound as a warning if they sensed a predator nearby. Species of the Muntjac can be found from India and Sri Lanka to southern China, Taiwan, Japan, and Indonesian islands. Muntjac inhabits tropical regions.
They have no seasonal rut; therefore, mating can take place at any time of the year. Males have short antlers, which can re-grow, and they tend to fight for territory with their tusks. Tusks are unknown in British wild deer and can be discriminatory when trying to differentiate a Muntjac from an immature native deer. They have huge eyes, which allow them to see in the dark. There are eleven known sub-species of the Muntjac family.

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