Muntiacus crinifronsblack muntjac

Last updated:

Geographic Range

The documented geographic range of Muntiacus crinifrons includes the Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang provinces of eastern China as well as within the Hkakabo Razi National Park of northern Myanmar. Ohtaishi and Gao (1990) suggested that the range of M. crinifrons formerly extended from the mouth of the Yangtze River, through the southeastern provinces that border the South China Sea, and into Yunnan province. Fragmentation of the former distribution of M. crinifrons may have been caused by deforestation for logging and agricultural purposes. (Groves and Grubb, 1990; Lu and Sheng, 1984; Ohtaishi and Gao, 1990; Rabinowitz and Khaing, 1998; Rabinowitz, et al., 1998; Sheng and Lu, 1980)

Habitat

Muntiacus crinifrons inhabits hilly, often precipitous, mountain forests between 800-1000 m above sea level. These forests consist of a mosaic of deciduous broadleaf, evergreen, and bamboo patches with dense undergrowth and subtropical monsoonal conditions. (Groves and Grubb, 1990; Lu and Sheng, 1984; Sheng and Lu, 1980)

  • Range elevation
    800 to 1000 m
    2624.67 to 3280.84 ft

Physical Description

One of the larger species of the genus Muntiacus, M. crinifrons can have a body mass as large as 28.5 kg, with females, on average, larger than males (24.1 kg and 23.1 kg, respectively). The pelage is mostly black to dark brown in color. The thick and long frontal tuft above and between the eyes is cinnamon red in color and often hides the long pedicles of the antlers. The tail is notably longer than in other species of Muntiacus (~21 cm) and is thickly tufted with white fur that extends onto the inner thighs. The ventral side is only slightly lighter in color compared to the dorsal side. During winter, the coat is much thicker and darker, but becomes thinner and lighter in color during the summer. Muntiacus crinifrons fawns have a coat similar to that seen in adults, except for the addition of four dorsal, subparallel, white spots. (Groves and Grubb, 1990; Sheng and Lu, 1980)

Like other members of the subfamily Cervinae, M. crinifrons retain enamel-covered upper canines, which are elongated into tusks in males. In M. crinifrons, only males bear short (20-60 cm), single-branched antlers on long, hair-covered pedicles (8-10 cm) that extend from the frontal bone. Annual shedding of the antlers is presumed to occur by many authors. However, Groves and Grubb (1990) raise the possibility that the antlers are not always shed, because of observed similarities in antler size and morphology between M. crinifrons and M. atherodes, a species in which the frontal cavity extends into the pedicle preventing the development of a burr. (Geist, 1998; Groves and Grubb, 1990; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range mass
    21.3 to 36.1 kg
    46.92 to 79.52 lb
  • Range length
    98 to 113 cm
    38.58 to 44.49 in
  • Average length
    103.9-105.8 cm
    in

Reproduction

The details of the mating system is not known specifically for M. crinifrons. However, the behavior of M. reevesi is often used as a paradigm for other members of the genus. Males of that species demarcate and aggressively defend small territories exclusive of other males, these territories may overlap with those of several females. (Geist, 1998; Nowak, 1999; Geist, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

Black muntjacs breed continually throughout the year without a distinct breeding season (polyestrous). Females may enter estrous before acquiring full body size. They bear only one fawn per pregnancy. In one study, some lactating females were found carrying fetuses, implying that post-partum estrus is possible in this species. The gestation period is not known for M. crinifrons, but in M. reevesi gestation lasts 209-220 days. The dappled coat of the fawn indicates that the young spend some time hidden in forest undergrowth until they are large enough to follow their mothers. (Lu and Sheng, 1984; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Females may give birth up to once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding can occur throughout the year.
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years

Little is known about the parental investment of Muntiacus crinifrons. However, in other species of Muntiacus, maturation progresses rapidly and females may simultaneously carry one young in utero while nursing another. Both observations imply relatively little postpartum parental investment by the mother. (Dueling and Myers, 2004; Geist, 1998)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Muntiacus crinifrons is not well known. Lu and Sheng (1984) report capturing a pregnant female of 11 years in age. This implies that M. crinifrons may have a lifespan similar to the 10-12 year lifespan estimated for Muntiacus reevesi. (Dueling and Myers, 2004; Lu and Sheng, 1984; Dueling and Myers, 2004; Lu and Sheng, 1984)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    11 (high) years

Behavior

Muntiacus crinifrons is a solitary and territorial deer, inhabiting altitudes from 800 to 1000 m in subtropical mountainous forests. Secretions from the frontal and pre-orbital glands are rubbed against vegetation to mark territories. When the territory of a male M. crinifrons is invaded, he aggressively defends it, using the tusk-like upper canines to deliver damaging blows to the invader. Although other deer are found at similar altitudes and habitats in southern China, M. crinifrons do not share their territories with any other deer species, implying aggressive interspecific territorial defense. (Geist, 1998; Lu and Sheng, 1984; Nowak, 1999)

The pedicles and antlers of Muntiacus crinifrons are thought to be used to engage opponents head-on in order to secure the opponent's head and avoid injuries from his tusks. However, the small size of the pedicles and antlers relative to body size imply that very little sparring occurs between males, suggesting lack of a social hierarchy among males. This contrasts with the social structure of larger-antlered Muntiacus species in which dominant males may tolerate subordinate males along peripheries of their territories. The lack of a social structure in M. crinifrons males is further supported by the smaller size of the males compared to the females, because small size is advantageous in fighting (i.e. increased agility) and disadvantageous in sparring and dominance displays. (Geist, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

In antagonistic encounters or during times of increased anxiety, M. crinifrons produces a deep, barking sound and raises it long tail, exposing the bright, white fur underneath. In addition, the fur of the distinctive red frontal tuft is raised. These behaviors may be used by M. crinifrons to inform predators or opponents that they have been detected. (Dueling and Myers, 2004; Geist, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

The home range of M. crinifrons has not been well documented. M. reevesi males introduced to England have been reported to have home ranges of ~20 ha while females have smaller ranges of ~12 ha. (Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

As mentioned above, M. crinifrons scent marks with secretions from frontal and preorbital glands to demarcate territorial boundaries. Such scent marks may also indicate reproductive status. Visual cues, such as a raised frontal tuft or exposed white fur of the upturned tail, as well as barking, convey anxiety and may inform a predator or opponent that it has been spotted. Studies of reproductive behavior in Muntiacus reevesi report that males use low postures and "buzzing" noises during courtship, but such behavior in M. crinifrons has not been documented. (Dueling and Myers, 2004; Geist, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Some species of Muntiacus have been described as omnivorous. However, a study of the rumen contents of Muntiacus crinifrons showed that the diet consists of leaves, twigs, and fruit without any animal matter. The contents included woody shrubs and vines, fallen fruit, herbs and grasses, conifers, and bamboo leaves, in order of decreasing abundance. (Lu and Sheng, 1984)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • fruit

Predation

The main predators of Muntiacus crinifrons are humans and dholes. Leopards are also suspected to prey upon M. crinifrons, but cases of leopard predation have not been documented. Muntiacus crinifrons uses visual and sound cues (as described above) to inform a predator that it has been detected in order to dissuade the predator from attacking. Other species of Muntiacus quickly flee predators down well-maintained trails and hide in the dense undergrowth until the danger has passed. A similar behavior is expected of M. crinifrons. (Dueling and Myers, 2004; Geist, 1998; Lu and Sheng, 1984; Nowak, 1999)

Ecosystem Roles

Muntiacus crinifrons is expected to be an ecological specialist due to its preference for a specific range of altitudes (800-1000 m). This is further supported by the exclusion of other deer species, who occupy similar habitats and altitudes elsewhere in China, from their ranges. Since this species has been found to eat fallen fruit, Muntiacus crinifrons may be important in seed dispersal. Beyond this, little is known about the ecological role of Muntiacus crinifrons. (Geist, 1998; Lu and Sheng, 1984)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In both China and Myanmar Muntiacus crinifrons is hunted and trapped for its meat and skin. Local people in Myanmar sell the skins and antlers to Chinese traders for essential items and amenities. (Lu and Sheng, 1984; Rabinowitz and Khaing, 1998; Rabinowitz, et al., 1998; Sheng and Lu, 1980)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Muntiacus crinifrons inhabits mountainous areas with little or no human populations and have no negative impact on human economies. (Lu and Sheng, 1984; Rabinowitz and Khaing, 1998; Rabinowitz, et al., 1998; Sheng and Lu, 1980)

Conservation Status

The geographic range of Muntiacus crinifrons is presumed to have been much more extensive is southeast Asia in the past, but has recently been fragmented due to habitat loss. In China, habitat loss has been attributed to overexploitation of mountain forests for timber as well as forest clearing for agriculture and infrastructure development. Overhunting may also play a role in the declining numbers of M. crinifrons. (Lu and Sheng, 1984; Nowak, 1999; Ohtaishi and Gao, 1990; Rabinowitz and Khaing, 1998; Rabinowitz, et al., 1998)

During the early 1980's, the estimated population size of Muntiacus crinifrons in China was ~ 10,000 individuals. However, a 1989 estimate lowered the population size to between 5000-6000 individuals. The discovery of Muntiacus crinifrons in Myanmar suggests that the total population size may be closer to 12,000 individuals. (Lu and Sheng, 1984; Ohtaishi and Gao, 1990; Rabinowitz and Khaing, 1998; Rabinowitz, et al., 1998; Sheng and Lu, 1980)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Aaron Wood (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

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.

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Dueling, S., P. Myers. 2004. "Muntiacus reevesi" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 21, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Muntiacus_reevesi.html.

Geist, V. 1998. Deer of the World: Their Evolution, Behaviour, and Ecology. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Groves, C., P. Grubb. 1990. Muntiacidae. Pp. 134-168 in G Bubenik, A Bubenik, eds. Horns, Pronghorns, and Antlers. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Lu, H., H. Sheng. 1984. Status of the Black muntjac, Muntiacus crinifrons, in eastern China. Mammal Review, 14/1: 29-36.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Ohtaishi, N., Y. Gao. 1990. A review of the distribution of all species of deer (Tragulidae, Moschidae and Cervidae) in China. Mammal Review, 2/3: 125-144.

Rabinowitz, A., G. Amato, U. Saw Tun Khaing. 1998. Discovery of the black muntjac, Muntiacus crinifrons (Artiodactyla, Cervidae), in north Myanmar. Mammalia, 62: 105-108.

Rabinowitz, A., S. Khaing. 1998. Status of selected mammal species in North Myanmar. Oryx, 32/3: 201-208.

Sheng, H., H. Lu. 1980. Current studies on the rare Chinese black muntjac. Journal of Natural History, 14: 803-807.