Rucervus duvauceliibarasingha

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Geographic Range

Barasingha, or swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), were once distributed throughout the Indian peninsula, but today are only found in areas of central and northern India and southern Nepal. There are two recognized subspecies: R. d. branderi, found in Madhya Pradesh, and R. d. duvaucelii, found in Uttar Pradesh and southern Nepal. (Massicot, 2005; Nowak, 1999; Schaller, 1967)

Habitat

The name “swamp deer” refers to the habitat preferred by the species. Rucervus duvaucelii duvaucelii is found in swampland and a variety of forest types ranging from dry to moist deciduous to evergreen. Rucervus duvaucelii branderi is found in grassy floodplains. In either forested or open habitats, both subspecies are commonly found near bodies of water. (Schaller, 1967; Whitehead, 1972)

Physical Description

Adult Rucervus duvaucelii stand between 119 to 124 centimeters at the shoulder, and weigh approximately 172 to 181 kilograms. Their coats are chestnut brown on the back, fading to a lighter brown on the sides and belly, with a creamy white on the inside of the legs, rump, and underside of the tail. Their chins, throats, and the insides of their ears are also whitish in color. In winter months, beginning around November, the coat turns a dark, dull grayish brown. Adult males will have darker coats than females and juveniles, ranging from dark brown to almost black. The coats of fawns are brown and spotted when born, but the spots will fade as the fawn matures. (Nowak, 1999; Schaller, 1967; Whitehead, 1972)

The name “barasingha” literally means “twelve-tined”. A fully adult male can have 10 to 15 tines, though some males have been found to have up to 20. Antlers of barasingha are smooth, the main beam sweeping upward for over half the length before branching repeatedly. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • ornamentation
  • Range mass
    172 to 181 kg
    378.85 to 398.68 lb
  • Range length
    119 to 124 cm
    46.85 to 48.82 in

Reproduction

Barasingha are polygynous, a dominant stag collecting a harem of up to thirty hinds (females). He will fight with other males for possession of the harem and the right to breed. At the beginning of the rut in mid-October, herds start to break apart and males create wallows. Male barasingha wallow by urinating and defecating in muddy pools and then roll, coating themselves in scent. Males also begin to bugle and bark; these sounds are sometimes compared to the braying of mules. Their calls will continue throughout the rut and well into February. Fights between competing males occur as they form harems. Males will scrape the ground with their hooves and then run at each other, clashing antlers. The tines will often be snapped off during these fights, leaving the antlers broken or disfigured. At the end of the rut, stags will leave their females and band together with other stags, while hinds form herds with similarly-aged females. (Schaller, 1967; Whitehead, 1972)

Breeding, or rutting, season begins in October and continues through February. The gestation period lasts 240 to 250 days, with most fawns born between September and October. A female barasingha reaches sexual maturity at 2 years of age. Barasinghas have one fawn per year, rarely twins. (Schaller, 1967; Walker, 2005; Whitehead, 1972)

  • Breeding interval
    Barasinghas breed once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from October through February.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Range gestation period
    8 to 8.33 months
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 8 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 3 years

A female barasingha will wean her young between 6 to 8 months of age. Males are not involved in providing for or protecting the young. (Huffman, 2006)

  • 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 oldest captive Rucervus duvaucelii reached 23 years of age; in the wild, individuals typically reach 20 years old. (Huffman, 2006; Massicot, 2005)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    20 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    23 years

Behavior

Barasinghas are active throughout the day, but do the majority of their grazing in the morning and evening, resting through the hotter afternoon. They are social animals, normally found in herds of similar gender and age, each herd averaging between 10 and 20 members. Mixed age and gender herds can occur; when they do, one hind characteristically leads. Other females form a single file line behind her, followed by stags in the rear. Leadership appears to have no relation to dominance. In herds of either type, males demonstrate less loyalty than females, often leaving one herd to join or form another. (Huffman, 2006; Schaller, 1967; Whitehead, 1972)

Home Range

A typical barasingha home range is about 4 square miles, though stags are more likely to roam. (Schaller, 1967)

Communication and Perception

Barasingha males use wallows to spread their scent during the rut in an attempt to attract available females and announce their presence to other males. Bugles and barks are also employed for these purposes. Alarm calls are used when predators are nearby. (Schaller, 1967)

Food Habits

Barasinghas primarily eat grasses. During the hot season, they will drink at least twice a day, the first time soon after daylight and again in the late afternoon. (Schaller, 1967; Walker, 2005; Whitehead, 1972)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • flowers

Predation

Barasinghas react to the alarm calls of their own kind as well as those of other animals by holding their necks erect and cocking their ears, facing themselves towards the threat. This alerts others in the herd, who adopt the same posture as well as raise their tails and stomp their hooves. Barks and screams are sent back and forth throughout the herd, rising in pitch if a predator is sighted. The alarm reaction persists until the barasinghas are certain danger is no longer near. The primary natural predators of barasinghas are tigers and leopards. (Huffman, 2006; Schaller, 1967; Whitehead, 1972)

Ecosystem Roles

Barasinghas are an important prey animal for tigers and leopards. They graze heavily on grasses and impact plant communities. (Schaller, 1967; Whitehead, 1972)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Barasinghas that leave protected lands are hunted for food by humans. (Schaller, 1967)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Barasinghas are shot and killed because they are thought to feed on crops, although there is no evidence to support this assumption. (Massicot, 2005)

Conservation Status

Barasinghas are listed as an endangered species by the IUCN. The subspecies R. d. duvaucelii is considered a vulnerable species, while R. d. branderi is endangered. Degradation of habitat, along with predation and hunting has brought barasinghas to low population levels. (Huffman, 2006; Massicot, 2005)

Other Comments

Texts disagree on the number of subspecies of the barasingha. Some sources name a third subspecies, R. d. ranjitsinhi, found in Assam, India, though this taxonomy is not universally accepted.

Barasinghas were previously known by the scientific name Cervus duvaucelii, this was recently changed to Rucervus duvaucelii. (Nowak, 1999)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Amber Ferraino (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

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.

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

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

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

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.

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).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

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.

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

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

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

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.

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

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

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

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

Huffman, B. 2006. "Rucervus duvaucelii, Barasingha, swamp deer" (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2006 at http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Rucervus_duvaucelii.html.

Massicot, P. 2005. "Animal Info – Barasingha" (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2006 at http://www.animalinfo.org/species/artiperi/cervduva.htm.

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

Schaller, G. 1967. The Deer and the Tiger. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Walker, M. 2005. "Barasingha deer, Cervus ducuaceli " (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2006 at http://www.worlddeer.org/barasingha.html.

Whitehead, G. 1972. Deer of the World. London: Constable & Company, Ltd.