Moschiola meminnaIndian spotted chevrotain

Geographic Range

Indian chevrotains (Moschiola meminna) are found in India and Sri Lanka. Their occurrence has also been reported in Nepal but this occurrence was considered unlikely. The approximate northern limit of the species was suggested as 24°N latitude, in the Mandla, Hoshangabad forests of the Central Provinces and Palamau in Bihar. Until recently, all populations within genus Moschiola were considered monotypic under the species name of Moschiola meminna. This was challenged by research in 2005 which suggested the genus Moschiola should be split into three species on the basis of habitat, M. indica in India from southern tip to 24°N in both the east and west, M. meminna in the dry zone at low latitude up to medium latitude of Sri Lanka, and M. kathygre in the wet zone of Sri Lanka. (Champion, 1929; Groves and Meijaard, 2005)

In this account, genus Moschiola is considered monotypic under the species name of M. meminna. M. indica, therefore, is not treated as an independent species of Indian chevrotain but as M. meminna occurring in India.


Mouse-deer (tragulids) in general occupy a range of habitats from evergreen forests to plantations. They are an ancient group of frugivorous ungulates, small-bodied and active both day and night. Moschiola meminna are only active at night. and are often found in evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous forests, as well as in grassland and commercial plantations. Studies have suggested that their habitat use could be closely related to the need for sufficient refuge, cover and forage substrates. (Balakrishnan and Easa, 1986; Jayasekara, et al., 2007; Ramesh, et al., 2013)

Physical Description

Modern tragulids, in general, stand 20-40 cm high at the shoulder and are sexual dimorphic as males are smaller than females. No sexual dimorphism of skull and skeleton measurements is found in Moschiola meminna. Moschiola memmina has an average body mass of 3 kg. Limbs of of Tragulids are short and slender with four-toed feet. The fur color of tragulids differs among species. M. meminna has a pelage that is medium to dark brown on the back and white on the belly, and has four or five light longitudinal stripes or spot-rows on the back. (Dort, 1989; Groves and Meijaard, 2005; Kuznetsov and Borissenko, 2004; Ralls, et al., 1975)

All tragulids species share skull feature of a relatively straight skull axis, a closed postorbital bar and the absence of horns or antlers. Upper incisors in tragulids are lost, the upper canine in males are enlarged and ever-growing used for intraspecific combats. Dental formula for Tragulidae is 0/3 1/1 3/3 3/3 = 34. (Dort, 1989)

Nocturnal Indian chevrotains (Moschiola memmina) have large eyes. M. meminna differs from other three species by having anteorbital vacuity between maxillae, frontal and lacrimale. Its bulla ossea is more rounded as well. (Dort, 1989; Groves and Meijaard, 2005; Meijaard and Groves, 2004)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Average mass
    3 kg
    6.61 lb


Little is known about the mating system of wild M. meminna. Reproductive patterns for Indian chevrotain are mostly known from animals in captivity.

Captive Indian chevrotains have no fixed breeding season but mating in the wild could take place in different seasons at different localities. In India, chevrotains rut and mate in June and July. The encounter of two males may lead to fights involving mutual splashing and biting. In captivity, alternative mounting between males with the same receptive female has been reported, suggesting they could be polyandrous or promiscuous. (Acharjyo, et al., 2005; Ralls, et al., 1975)

Mating behavior has been documented more in detail for the greater mouse-deer, Tragulus napu. This species uses a combination of chemical and vocal cues during courtships. During mating, male use their intermandibular gland to mark female through rubbing. Rhythmical vocalizations are often exchanged before mounting. Similar courtship pattern could be expected for M. memmina. (Ralls, et al., 1975)

Tragulids are known to have a post-partum estrus. For M. meminna, the inter-parturition interval varies from 171 to 289 days with a mean of 219.6 days. Gestation for Indian chevrotain ranges from 150 to 160 days. Litter size observed in captivity is always one with very rare occasion of twins. A new born baby of Indian chevrotain weighs from 288 to 382 grams (mean of 319 grams). Body mass of neonates is highly related with maternal biomass. Lactation varies among Tragulids. Information on lactation is lacking for M. meminna but has been described in the African species Hyemoschus aquaticus (water chevrotain) as 157 days and 91 days for the South-East Asian Tragulus javanicus (lesser mouse-deer). (Acharjyo, et al., 2005; Jabbour, et al., 1997; Ralls, et al., 1975)

Precocial young have been reported in lesser and great mouse-deers (Tragulus sp.). For both species, neonates are born with parental characteristic pelage and get on their feet within 30 minutes after birth. No such details were documented for M. meminna, but Indian chverotain neonates should be expected to share the traits. (Jabbour, et al., 1997; Ralls, et al., 1975)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • year-round breeding
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • post-partum estrous
  • Breeding interval
    Post-partrum estrus
  • Breeding season
    No fixed breeding season
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    155 days

In the wild, the young mouse-deer probably remain hidden instead of following their mother. Nursing behavriours for M. memmina are inferred from other mouse-deer species as studies have suggested that the four mouse-deer species resemble each other behaviorally. Observations from T. napu and T. javanicus indicate when a mother nurses her young, she stands in a unique position and raises the hindleg so that the nipples are exposed to her infants. For T. napu, sexual maturity is reached at about four and half months and adult size at five months but no information about sexual maturity was available for M. memmina. (Jabbour, et al., 1997; Ralls, et al., 1975)


Tragulids, in general, have a lifespan of 8-12 years in the wild. The only documented longevity for M. memmina in captivity was 6 years 9 month, which is not believed to be the longest lifespan of the species either in the wild or in captivity. (Jones, 1993)


Indian chevrotains live a solitary life. Relatively little is known of the behavior of M. meminna. Studies suggested that the four extant species of tragulids resemble each other both morphologically and behaviorally, thus similar behavioral patterns from other species also probably occur in M. meminna. (Ralls, et al., 1975)

More information is known about the behavior of the greater mouse-deer Tragulus napu. Greater mouse-deer groom themselves using extremely long mobile tongues and they stamp on the ground with hind feet prior to fleeing. Many behaviors of mouse-deer are considered primitive patterns within the order Artiodactyla. They do not exhibit 'flehmen', but instead males often lick urine of females to collect informative scent. Other primitive behaviors include the utilization of rhythmical vocalization in courtship, the mounting posture of the male, the nursing posture of the female, and the fighting patterns of males. (Ralls, et al., 1975)

Home Range

Indian chevrotains live a solitary life within small permanent home ranges in tropical forests. They are likely to be territorial. The solitary life style and a small home range are suggested to be adaptations to the distribution of their food resources. In general, they feed on small, relatively nutritious but dispersed food items which do not fluctuate seasonally in a tropical environment. (Ralls, et al., 1975; Ramesh, et al., 2013; Sridhara, et al., 2013)

Communication and Perception

Indian chevrotains are solitary and the communication is likely to be limited to males and females during mating periods. No study directly described communication behaviour of M. meminna. As four species of mouse-deer resemble each other behaviourly, we could infer communication behaviour of Indian chevrotains from the communication strategies used by greater mouse-deer (Tragulus napu). The greater mouse-deer uses a combination of chemical and vocal cues during courtship. Prior to mating, males of T. napu approach females and mark females with intermandibular gland through rubbing. During rapid approaches, males constantly squeak, which is thought to help inducing the females to get into mating position. Rhythmical vocalizations are often exchanged before mounting. (Ralls, et al., 1975)

T. napu females sniff and lick their infants when they approach. Emission of high squeaks by the young and a high squeak answered by the mother result in an immediate approach by the mother towards the young. It is possible that Indian chevrotain females communicate with their young in the similar way. (Ralls, et al., 1975)

Food Habits

M. meminna are primarily frugivores, consuming easily digestible items which provide relatively high protein and less fibrous materials. Indian chevrotains usually browse the understory vegetation and eat mainly fallen fruits. Other food items include young leaves, shrubs, shoots, and sometimes animal materials found on the forest floor. (Acharjyo, et al., 2005; Bodmer, 1990; Prasad, et al., 2010; Sridhara, et al., 2013)

M. meminna are ruminants with a three-chambered simple stomach. The selection of a very digestible diet allows rapid fermentation and swift passage through the gut, which in turn aids in rapid and efficient digestion. (Acharjyo, et al., 2005; Sridhara, et al., 2013)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Small forest ungulates like Indian chevrotains are presumed to rely on their cryptic appearance and dense vegetation cover to avoid detection by predators. Indian chevrotains are common prey for dholes (Cuon alpines), tigers (Panthera tigris), and leopards (Panthera pardus). Occasional predation by forest eagle-owls (Bubo nipalensis) has also been reported. (Nandini, 2005; Ramesh, et al., 2012; Ramesh, et al., 2013; Sridhara, et al., 2013)

Apart from wild predators, Indian chevrotains are frequently hunted by humans in their local habitat. (Madhusudan and Karanth, 2002)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Other than being preyed upon by carnivores like dholes, tigers and leopards, Indian chevrotain plays an important ecological role as seed dispersers. The Indian chevrotain is the major seed predator of Phyllanthus emblica by directly consuming the large seeds or by eating the fruit. (Prasad and Sukumar, 2010)

Indian chevrotains are also used by parasites as definitive hosts. Trypanosoma ingens has been documented in mouse-deer T. javanicus, but it was not reported in M. memmina until 1971. Kannangara (1971) discovered a large trypanosome in the blood film from an apparenly healthy Indian chevrotain, suggesting the possible role of M. memmina as a definitive host for this parasite. Nematode Setaria javensis has been recovered from a species of lesser mouse-deer (T. kanchil) but not yet from M. memmina . (Araki, et al., 1982; Kannangara, 1971)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • parasite
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Trypanosoma ingens

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Indian chevrotain hunting is a part of local tradition. Local hunting of the species is either sportive or for wild meat. (Madhusudan and Karanth, 2002)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of M. meminna on humans.

Conservation Status

Moschiola meminna populations are listed as ‘Least Concern’ by IUCN. The main threat for the species is from hunting by local communities and forest fire as they are sensitive to habitat loss, alteration and degradation. (Baral, et al., 2009; Duckworth and Timmins, 2008)

Other Comments

An alternative name used in the literature is Tragulus meminna. (Balakrishnan and Easa, 1986)


Shu ting Zhao (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba.



uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


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


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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.


active during the night


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

World Map


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

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


remains in the same area


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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


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


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.


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.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


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Sridhara, S., A. Edgaonkar, A. Kumar. 2013. Understorey structure and refuges from predators influence habitat use by a small ungulate, the Indian chevrotain (Moschiola indica) in Western Ghats, India. Ecological research, 28: 427-433.