There are 12 species in the tribe Muntiacini (one of the two tribes in the subfamily Cervinae in the Cervidae, the deer family; the tribe Muntiacini is sometimes treated as subfamily Muntiacinae). Eleven of these 12 species are in the genus Muntiacus and are known as muntjacs (the 12th species is the Tufted Deer, Elaphodus cephalophus). Most muntjacs are diurnal and solitary. Many muntjac species are threatened by hunting and habitat loss and degradation. (Gilbert et al. 2006; Mattioli 2011 and references therein)
A few muntjac species have been the focus of considerable study (e.g., Black Muntjac, Reeves' Muntjac), but most species are little known and several were not even discovered (or, in the case of Roosevelts' Muntjac, rediscovered) until the end of the 20th or dawn of the 21st century (Gongshan Muntjac in southwestern China, Giant Muntjac along the Laos/Vietnam border, Annamite Muntjac from Laos, Leaf Muntjac from Burma and India, Roosevelts' Muntjac from Laos and Vietnam).
Muntjacs are found throughout Southeast Asia, southern China, and India. They have been of great interest to evolutionary biologists because of their striking karyotype diversity. It appears that karyotypic evolution in muntjacs has proceeded via reduction in diploid number. The Red Muntjac has the lowest diploid chromosomal number in mammals (2n = 6 for females and 7 for males) whereas Reeves' Muntjac has 2n = 46 in both sexes (remarkably, these two species can produce viable F1 hybrids in captivity). The Tufted Deer, which is the sole species in the other genus of the Muntiacinae subfamily, Elaphodus, and is found across most of southern China and at least historically occurred in northern Burma, has polymorphic karyotypes with three different diploid numbers, 46, 47, and 48, observed in natural populations. (Wang and Lan 2000 and references therein, James et al. 2008 and references therein; Mattioli 2011 and references therein)
The following Muntiacus species are recognized by Mattioli 2011:
Reeves' Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) is found in southeastern China and Taiwan. Animals from mainland China were introduced to England in the early 20th century, where they are now common common and expanding their range.
Giant Muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis) is known only from the Annamite Mountains of Laos, Vietnam, and eastern Cambodia. Individuals of this species were observed several decades before the Giant Muntjac was described, but they were mistakenly believed to be large Red Muntjac.
Fea's Muntjac (Muntiacus feae) is known from Thailand and Burma.
Black Muntjacs (Muntiacus crinifrons) are found in eastern China. For more than a century only five specimens were known; the population in the late 1990s was estimated to be 7000 to 8500 individuals.
Gongshan Muntjac (Muntiacus gongshanenis) is found in southwestern China and northern Burma and may also be present in Tibet, northeastern India, and Bhutan.
Red Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) is very broadly distributed, but some authors believe populations across this range should actually be be treated as three distinct species, M. muntjac (of the Malaysian and Sundaic regions), M. montanus (of the Sumatran mountains), and M. vaginalis (of south and southeastern continental Asia). Red Muntjacs from the mainland have been introduced to the Andaman Islands. Red Muntjacs are believed to be important fruit dispersers. Potential maximum lifespan is around 17 years. Tigers. Leopards, and Clouded Leopards are their main predators. Red Muntjac meat is frequently consumed in south and southeast Asia, but the species is still relatively common across most of its range, although it may be declining.
Bornean Yellow Muntjacs (Muntiacus atherodes) are endemic to Borneo. For many decades they were confused with Red Muntjacs, which also occur on Borneo. Bornean Yellow Muntjacs are widespread and locally common but are probably declining, especially on the Indonesian portion of Borneo.
Roosevelts' Muntjac (Muntiacus rooseveltorum) is found in the Annamite Mountain in Laos and possibly in Vietnam and southern China as well. The first specimen was collected in1929, but the species was not rediscovered until 1996. The specific epithet is in honor of two of Theodore Roosevelt's sons, Kermit and Theodore, Jr., who sponsored the expedition on which the first specimen was collected.
Annamite Muntjacs (Muntiacus truongsonensis) are found in the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam and possibly in Yunnan (southern China). However, the taxonomic validity of this species remains uncertain.
The Leaf Muntjac (Muntiacus putaoensis) was described from Northern Burma but later found to be present in northeastern India as well.
A putative species known as the Puhoat Muntjac (M. puhoatensis) is known only from the type specimen and may not even be a valid species, but if it is a distinct species it is probably found in northwestern Vietnam and possibly neighboring Laos.
(Wang and Lan 2000 and references therein; Mattioli 2011 and references therein)
- Gilbert, C., A. Ropiquet, and A. Hassanin. 2006. Mitochondrial and nuclear phylogenies of Cervidae (Mammalia, Ruminantia): Systematics, morphology, and biogeography. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 101–117.
- James, J., U. Ramakrishnan, and A. Datta. 2008. Molecular evidence for the occurrence of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Conservation Genetics 9:927–931.
- Mattioli, S. 2011. Family Cervidae (Deer). Pp. 350-433 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Wang, W. and 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.
No one has provided updates yet.