This family includes a single genus and four species. These small deer ( 9 - 11 kg) are found in central and northeastern Asia, in forests and brushlands at intermediate elevations.
Musk deer are similar to cervids in many respects and are often classified as a subfamily of the Cervidae. They differ, however, in that both sexes lack antlers (the male has a huge, scimitar-like canine instead; females have smaller canines). They have a single opening to their lacrimal canals, versus 2 in cervids. Their gestation period is shorter than that of cervids (5 months vs. usually around 10 months), and moschids have a gall bladder (absent in cervids).
An additional character that separates this species from the cervids is the presence of an abdominal musk gland. This gland secretes a brownish, waxy substance that is used by humans in perfumes and soaps. Musk is very valuable, and musk deer are heavily hunted. In China, these deer are now bred in captivity so that their musk can be harvested.
Musk deer are secretive animals, generally active at night or in the early morning or late evening. They are usually solitary. Their diet includes both browse and graze, and they also consume some mosses and lichens.
References and literature cited:
Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.
Nowak, R.M. and J.L. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, 4th edition . John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.
Savage, R. J. G. and M. R. Long. 1986. Mammal Evolution: An Illustrated Guide. Facts on File Publications, UK. 251 pp.
Simpson, C. D. 1984. Artiodactyls. Pp. 563-587 in Anderson, S. and J. K. Jones, Jr. (eds). Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, N.Y. xii+686 pp.
Vaughan, T. A. 1986. Mammalogy. Third Edition. Saunders College Publishing, N.Y. vii+576 pp.
Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.
Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. xviii+1206 pp.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate