Muntiacus vuquangensisgiant muntjac

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Geographic Range

Giant muntjacs were first recorded in 1994 in the Vu Quang Nature Reserve located in the Ha Tinh Province of north central Vietnam. They are primarily found in the Annamite Mountains on the border of Vietnam and Laos, although the species has also been found in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia, and in Annam, as far south as the Dalat Plateau. Along the mountains, antlers of giant muntjacs have been found in villages as far north as the Chat River and as far south as the village of Dakchung, although the true extent of its range is still unknown. (Bauer, 1997; Massicot, 2003; Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

Habitat

The mountains where giant muntjacs are found are fairly rugged with a varying landscape of hills, plateaus, and valleys on the westward side. Their main habitat is old-growth broad-leaved evergreen forests with an understory of bamboo, palms, and tree saplings. These animals have also been seen in wet evergreen forests, dry evergreen forests, and mixed secondary forests of pine and evergreen. Altitudes for these habitats range from 500 to 1200 m. Local peoples say Muntiacus vuquangensis is scarcer in degraded habitats and can be moderately common, rare, or absent depending on the forests condition. (Massicot, 2003; Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

  • Range elevation
    1200 to 500 m
    3937.01 to 1640.42 ft

Physical Description

Giant muntjacs range in weight from 30 to 50 kg, with males typically being larger than females. The fur is agouti brown and becomes darker toward the back. The limbs are dark brown to blackish. The fur on the belly, the inside of the legs, the anal area, and the underside of the tail is white. Male fur has been noted to become darker in December and January as antler growth stops and velvet dries. The tail of giant muntjacs is relatively short and triangle-shaped. Males have large canine teeth that project from the upper jaw. (Massicot, 2003; Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

Antlers in males are larger than those of any other muntjac. They grow up and backward, with forking that creates a brow tine. Measured antlers had bean lengths of 17.0 to 28.5 cm and the brow tines were up to 9.8 cm long. The pedicels are very prominent and extend along the face as ridges. (Massicot, 2003; Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

Although the general dimensions of giant muntjacs are not unique, there are four features that separate these animals as a species: short/stout pedicels, size and conformation of antlers, skull characteristics (length and shape of nasals), and a triangular tail. (Massicot, 2003; Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

  • Range mass
    30 to 50 kg
    66.08 to 110.13 lb

Reproduction

Little is known about the reproductive cycle of giant muntjacs although females have only been observed with single young and a female killed on January 6 was carrying a 165 g fetus. (Massicot, 2003; Schaller and Vrba, 1996)

Other muntjacs are apparently polygynous, and it is likely that with the sexual dimorphism seen in this species, it is polygynous as well. In Muntiacus reevesi held in captivity, males formed a dominance heirarchy, and maintained exclusive home ranges, which they defended and scent marked. In feral populations in England, the approximately 20 ha home ranges of males of M. reevesi overlap with the smaller (12 ha) home ranges of females. This distribution might have reproductive significance. (Nowak, 1999)

Information on the reproduction of this species is not available. However, it is reasonable to assume that they are something like other members of the genus Muntiacus.

In the genus Muntiacus females are reported to be polyestrous, with a cycle ranging in length from 14 to 21 days. Of this time, they are probably in estrus only for about 2 days. Breeding can be seasonal or year round, depending on the climate. Gestations around 209-220 days have been reported, and the young of these animals are reported to be about 1 kg. However, the giant muntjac is much larger than other members of the genus, so the young may also be larger. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    These deer probably breed annually.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season for these animals is not known.
  • Average number of offspring
    1

No information is available on the parental behavior of these animals. However, within the genus Muntiacus, females typically give birth to young in the dense jungle, where they remain hidden until they can move around with their mothers. Male parental care has not been reported in this genus. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

No studies have been conducted on longevity in the giant muntjac, although the much smaller Reeve's muntjac is known to live up to and past 17 years. (Anonymous, 1998)

Behavior

Giant muntjacs are solitary animals and are wary of humans as a result of heavy hunting pressure in its range. They are also known to hybridize with the red muntjac. (Massicot, 2003; Schaller and Vrba, 1996)

Muntjacs are also known as barking deer. The current state of knowledge is that the barking is a means by which these animals identify themselves year round. (Nowak, 1999)

Although information is lacking for Muntiacus vuquangensis, males other species of muntjac are thought to be aggressive toward one another. Both diurnal and nocturnal behavior has been documented. (Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

The home range size for M. vuquangensis is not known. However, in feral M. reevesi populations in England, the approximately 20 ha home ranges of males of M. reevesi overlap with the smaller (12 ha) home ranges of females. This distribution might have reproductive significance. (Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

All muntjacs are known as barking deer because they make a noise very similar to a dog's bark when they sense danger. This bark may be used in identification of individuals. Other means of communication have not been documented in this species, although, as mammals, it is likely that they use visual signals, tactile information (especially between mothers and their young, as well as mates), and olfactory cues. Other members of the genus are known to use scent marks to define territories. (Massicot, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

No studies have been done on this aspect of the giant muntjac, yet the principal vegetation it is found in is broad-leaved evergreen forests with an understory of bamboo, palms, and tree saplings. The diets of other muntjacs include grasses, shoots, and low growing leaves that are still tender. (Nowak, 1999; Schaller and Vrba, 1996)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves

Predation

Local people living in its range hunt the giant muntjac for its meat. An adult female was observed being attacked by an Asian dhole (Cuon alpinus) when local hunters killed it. (Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

Ecosystem Roles

No documentation of the ecosystem roles of this species exists. However, as primary consumers, it is likely that they affect plant growth, and perhaps, as prey species, they affect population growth for predators.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The meat of giant muntjacs is a food source for local villagers and there is a market for wider distribution of meat in cities and towns. (Timmins, et al., 1998)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No negative impacts could be found.

Conservation Status

In 1994, giant muntjacs were protected under Appendix I in CITES. Although they have not yet been accessed by IUCN, it is believed that the species belongs on the Red List. Laos and Vietnam have taken steps to help protect the area's biodiversity by creating several National Biodiversity Conservation Areas in and near the Annamite Mountains. In addition, the Nakai-Nam Theun Natioanl Biodiversity Conservation Area in Laos may be a core area for giant muntjac populations. This area is contiguous with the Vu Quang Nature Reserve in Vietnam. (Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

The conservation of giant muntjacs has been impeded by a newly formed government conservation strategy and a shortage of funding and trained workers. They are also threatened by hunting in conservation areas by locals and the popularity of slash and burn farming. (Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Timmins, et al., 1998)

Other Comments

The genus Megamuntiacus was given to giant muntjacs prematurely. Recent mtDNA analysis shows that the level of divergence between the giant muntjac and other muntjacs are at the same level as other Muntiacus species and in other genera of cervids. (Schaller and Vrba, 1996; Wang and Lan, 2000)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Dan Mico (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

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

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

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.

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.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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

nocturnal

active during the night

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

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

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

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.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Anonymous, 1998. "Virginia Zoological Park" (On-line). Reeve's Muntjack (Muntiacus reevesi). Accessed December 02, 2002 at http://sites.communitylink.org/vazoo/reeves.htm.

Bauer, K. 1997. Historic record and range extension for giant muntjac, Muntiacus vuquangensis (Cervidae). Mammalia, 61/2: 265-267.

Massicot, P. 2003. "Giant Muntjac" (On-line). Animal Info Pages. Accessed April 08, 2004 at http://www.animalinfo.org/species/artiperi/megavuqu.htm.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Schaller, G., E. Vrba. 1996. Description of the giant muntjac (Megamuntiacus vuquangensis) in Laos. Journal of Mammalogy, 77/3: 675-683.

Timmins, R., T. Evans, K. Khounboline, C. Sisomphone. 1998. Status and conservation of the giant muntjac Megamuntiacus vuquangensis, and notes on other muntjac species in Laos. Oryx, 32/1: 59-67.

Wang, W., H. Lan. 2000. Rapid and parallel chromosomal number reductions in muntjac deer inferred from mitochondrial DNA phylogeny. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 17/9: 1326-1333.