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Overview

Distribution

Range Description

The Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus) is endemic to Japan on three of the main islands: Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The species is widespread in appropriate habitat on Honshu, but is absent from lowland cultivated areas and areas around human settlements. On Shikoku and Kyushu, their distribution is more limited. It became extinct in western Honshu and greatly reduced in other areas before the early 20th century. Since the 1960s, its range has been expanding.
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Geographic Range

The distribution of Japanese serows is restricted to the Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: island endemic

  • Fukuda, G. 1995. Illustrated pocket book of animals in colour. 5-12, 1 Chome, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan: Hokuryukan.
  • Kubo, K., Y. Nakagawa, N. Maeda, K. Numata, T. Yamada. 2001. Yama-kei pocket guide 24, Nihon yasei doubutsu. 1-1-33, Shiba-daimon, Minatoku, Tokyo, Japan: YAMA-KEI Publishers Co.,Ltd..
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Japanese serows are similar in appearance to goats. Their horns average 12 to 16 cm in length. Their body length is approximately 130 cm, and their shoulder height is about 65 cm. Adult serows weigh 30-45 kg, and they are not strongly sexually dimorphic. Their pelage is dark brown, but in the northern part of their range the color is lighter. They possess large infraorbital glands that are used in scent marking their territories. This gland can be seen easily.

Range mass: 30 to 45 kg.

Average mass: 37 kg.

Average length: 130 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is diurnal, though the animals actively feed only in the early morning and late afternoon. Their habitat includes various vegetation types such as broad-leaved evergreen forest, subalpine coniferous forest, alpine meadow and coniferous plantations, but temperate deciduous forest that is their preferred habitat. They eat fleshy leaves, evergreen leaves, plant shoots, and acorns (Jass and Mead 2004). This species is a monogamous, territorial browser, and sexual dimorphism is not developed. They are found solitarily, in pairs or small family groups. The population density is generally low (the average was 2.6/km² in the 1983 survey). Females mature sexually at 30 months. The gestation period is 7 months, and females give birth to single fawn. Life expectancy at birth and longevity are estimated to be 4.8-6.5 years and 25 years respectively (Tokida and Miura, 1988, Miura and Tokida, 1992).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Japanese serows inhabit forested areas on mountains.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains

  • Kishimoto, R., T. Kawamichi. 1996. Territoriality and monogamous pairs in a solitary ungulate, the Japanese serow, Capricornis crispus . Animal Behavior, 52: 673-682.
  • Ochiai, K. 1999. Diet of the Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus) on the Shimokita Peninsula, northern Japan, in reference to variations with a 16-year interval. Mammal study, 24: 91-102.
  • Ochiai, K., K. Susaki. 2002. Effects of territoriality on population density in the Japanese serow, (Capricornis crispus). Journal of Mammalogy, 83(4): 964-972.
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Japanese serows are browsers that feed primarily on the buds and leaves of deciduous broad-leaved trees. They also feed on leaves of evergreen coniferous trees and fallen acorns. They sometimes eat flowers and fruits.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

  • Takatsuki, S., N. Ôsugi, T. Itô. 1988. A Note on the Food Habits of the Japanese Serow at the Western Foothill of Mt. Zao, northern Japan. Journal of the Mammalogical Society of Japan, 13(2): 139-142.
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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Because Japanese serows are territorial and their density in any particular area is limited, their impact on vegetation is relatively low. However, some species of plants are affected by their browsing and consequently they have some influence over the vegetation.

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Predation

Japanese serows have no or very few predators other than humans. A potential predator is Ursus thibetanus, Asiatic black bears. However, Asiatic black bears are not highly predatory. Historically, wolves probably preyed on serows, but wolves were exterminated from the serow's range by the early 1900s. More significantly, humans hunted them for meat and hide in the past. They are currently protected as a Japanese natural heritage and hunting is prohibited. Recently, dog predation was found to be a leading source of mortality in some areas.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Japanese serows use scent marking to hold territories. Because they are solitary animals and have little occasion to encounter other individuals of the same species, they use scent marking as their primary method of communication. Females use sound to call their young.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The maximum longevity is 20 to 21 years for males and 21 to 22 years for females. Life expectancies at birth are 5.3 to 5.5 years for males and 4.8 and 5.1 years for females. One study found that serows live in same territory for 11.7 to 12.4 years. Because serows disperse from their natal territories at 2 to 4 years of age to establish their own territories, they live most of their lives in the territory they established. Also, it is likely that successful establishment of a territory increases an individual's chances of survival greatly, those without territories have greater risk of mortality.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
20 to 22 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
4.8 to 5.5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
10.0 years.

  • Tokida, K., S. Miura. 1988. Mortality and Life Table of a Japanese Serow (Capricornis crispus) Population in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. Journal of the Mammalogical Society of Japan, 13(2): 119-126.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 24 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen lived 24 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Japanese serows usually form monogamous pairs. However, some males mate with two and occasionally three females in the same breeding season. Two field studies at different locations found a similar proportion of polygynous males (20-30%), suggesting that the proportion of animals that mate polygynously is perhaps fixed in the species. Both sexes form territories that they defend against other individuals of the same sex. Usually male territories almost completely overlap those of a female, but sometimes male territories include territories of more than one female. In these cases, those males are polygynous. Mated pairs remain together every year, perhaps because they hold consistent territories. When a mate is displaced from their territory, their mate remains in the same territory and mates with the individual that takes over the territory of the displaced animal.

Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous

Japanese serows rut in September to November. The young are born in May and June, and they remain with their mother for about a year. Young reach sexual maturity at 2.5 to 3 years of age. Although serows become independent as yearlings, they remain in their natal territory. They disperse between 2 to 4 years of age, but females may inherit their mothers' territories.

Breeding interval: Japanese serows breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from Septermber to November.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 3.

Average number of offspring: 1.01.

Range gestation period: 6.67 to 7.67 months.

Average weaning age: 5 months.

Average time to independence: 1 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2.5 to 3 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2.5 to 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Most of the parental investment is provided by the mother. Young serows follow their mothers for a year, and remain in the mother’s territory for 2 to 4 years. Lactation continues until November. Males provide no parental care to the young, although they permit young within their territories.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; inherits maternal/paternal territory

  • Kishimoto, R. 1989. Early Mother and Kid Behavior of a Typical "Follower", Japanese Serow Capricornis crispus . Mammalia, 53(2): 165-176.
  • Kishimoto, R., T. Kawamichi. 1996. Territoriality and monogamous pairs in a solitary ungulate, the Japanese serow, Capricornis crispus . Animal Behavior, 52: 673-682.
  • Ochiai, K., K. Susaki. 2002. Effects of territoriality on population density in the Japanese serow, (Capricornis crispus). Journal of Mammalogy, 83(4): 964-972.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Capricornis crispus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AACCGCTGATTATTTTCAACTAACCACAAAGATATTGGCACTCTTTACCTCCTATTTGGTGCCTGAGCTGGCATAGTAGGAACTGCCCTA---AGCCTGCTAATTCGCGCTGAACTAGGCCAACCCGGAACTCTACTTGGAGAC---GACCAAATCTACAATGTAGTTGTAACCGCACACGCATTCGTAATAATCTTTTTCATAGTAATACCTATTATAATTGGAGGCTTTGGCAACTGACTAGTTCCCTTAATA---ATTGGAGCCCCCGATATAGCATTTCCCCGGATAAACAACATAAGTTTTTTACTCCTCCCCCCTTCCTTCCTATTACTCCTAGCATCCTCTATGGTTGAAGCCGGAGCAGGAACAGGTTGAACCGTATACCCCCCCTTAGCAGGCAATTTAGCCCATGCAGGAGCCTCAGTAGACCTA---ACCATTTTCTCTTTACACCTGGCTGGTGTCTCCTCAATTTTAGGAGCCATCAATTTTATTACAACTATTATCAACATAAAACCTCCTGCAATATCACAATATCAAACTCCCCTATTCGTGTGATCCGTACTAATCACTGCCGTATTACTCCTACTCTCACTCCCTGTATTAGCAGCT---GGCATTACAATACTGTTGACAGACCGAAACCTGAACACGACCTTCTTCGACCCGGCAGGAGGGGGAGACCCTATTTTATATCAACACCTATTTTGATTCTTTGGACACCCCGAAGTATACATTCTCATTTTACCTGGATTTGGAATAATCTCCCACATTGTAACCTACTATTCAGGAAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGATATATAGGAATAGTATGAGCCATAATATCAATCGGATTCTTGGGATTTATTGTATGAGCCCATCACATATTCACAGTCGGAATAGACGTCGATACACGAGCCTACTTCACATCAGCTACTATAATTATTGCTATCCCAACCGGAGTGAAAGTCTTTAGCTGATTA---GCAACGCTCCACGGAGGA---AATATCAAGTGATCCCCCGCTATAATATGAGCCCTAGGCTTCATTTTCCTTTTTACAGTTGGAGGCCTAACTGGAATTGTCCTAGCTAACTCCTCCCTCGACATCGTCCTCCATGACACATATTATGTGGTCGCACATTTCCACTACGTG---CTATCAATAGGAGCTGTATTCGCTATCATGGGAGGATTCGTACACTGATTCCCCCTGTTCTCAGGCTACACTCTTAACGATACATGAGCCAAAATCCACTTTGCGATTATATTTGTAGGCGTTAACATAACTTTCTTCCCACAACATTTCCTAGGACTATCCGGTATACCACGA---CGATATTCTGATTACCCAGACGCATATACA---ATATGAAACACCATCTCATCTATAGGCTCATTTATCTCACTAACAGCGGTAATACTAATAGTTTTCATCATCTGAGAAGCATTCGCATCTAAACGAGAAGTC---CTAGCTGTAGACCTGACCACAACGAAT
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Capricornis crispus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Tokida, K.

Reviewer/s
Harris, R. & Festa-Bianchet, M. (Caprinae Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, large population, and stable or increasing population. It is dependent on continued protection, including from hunting and persecution by forestry operations.
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Japanese serows were hunted to near extinction by people in the past. They are currently protected as a natural heritage and hunting has been prohibited. They are listed as Lower Risk in IUCN.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
The Japanese serow is common in the mountain ranges of northern and central Honshu, and eastern Shikoku, but is restricted to small, fragmented areas in Kyushu. By 1978 the total range occupied by serow was estimated at 34,500 km², with total number estimated by the block count method (Maruyama and Nakama, 1983) of 70,000 to 100,000 animals. In 1983, the total population was estimated by the Environmental Agency at ca. 100,000 animals with a distribution area of more than 39,000 km². In 2003, the distribution had expanded to 170% of that in 1978. On the other hand, the population density has slightly decreased in many areas. Currently the population is assumed to be stable or slowly increasing.

Population Trend
Increasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The serow had been threatened due to over-hunting until the 1950s. It is considered that the poaching pressure was exceedingly high before the 1950’s. However, poacher’s syndicates were eliminated by anti-poaching campaign in 1959, and after that serow population began to increase. Furthermore, the increase of young conifer plantations, which occurred from 1950s to 1970s and supplied a large quantity of food for serow, might affect the population growth. From middle of 1970s to early 1990s, damage on young conifer plantations and agricultural crops by serow increased and the high level had been maintained. The management measures of this species became a matter of controversy between conservationists, and forest owners and/or farmers, then the government agencies decided to start serow control in 1978. In 1990s, damage by serow had declined with decrease of young plantations. On the other hand, damage on forestry and agriculture by sika deer (Cervus nippon), wild boar (Sus scrofa), and Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata) has remarkably increased, and accordingly social demands to control serow had decreased.

The sika deer population is conspicuously increasing throughout Japan in recent years, and undergrowth of forest is decreasing by the grazing and browsing, and the interspecific competition with sika deer might affect serow population.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Due to a severe decline in the early 20th century, serow was designated a ‘Non Game Species’ by the Hunting Law in 1925, and hunting of this species was prohibited. In 1934, this species was designated to ‘’Natural Monument Species’’ under the Law for Protection of Cultural Properties (LPCP). In 1955, its status was raised to ‘’Special Natural Monument Species’’. Although serow hunting has been prohibited by laws since 1925, poaching pressure was high before the 1950s. As a result of the anti-poaching campaign conducted throughout the country in 1959, poacher’s syndicates were eliminated, and the serow population began to increase. The population increase was probably also due to an increase in suitable habitat in the form of young coniferous plantations created from 1950s to 1970s. By the 1970s these artificial plantation accounted for more than 40% of forest cover in Japan, and the serow range had expanded to around 40,000 km² ,and population increased to 100,000. However, with this increase, damage to forestry and agricultural production had also drastically increased and conflicts arose between serow conservation and primary industries. Nevertheless, any capture of serows, including nuisance animal control, was not permitted until 1978 (with the exception of scientific research).

The Japanese serow is legally managed under two laws, LPCP and the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law (WPHL). The competent authority of LPCP is the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and that of WPHL is the Environmental Agency (currently Ministry of the Environment). The Forestry Agency has jurisdiction over forest management policy, which concerns damage prevention and habitat treatment. In 1979, these three Agencies reached an agreement to change serow management measures. The essential points of new management policy were as follows.
1) To establish serow protection areas. This decision meant the designation of ‘Special Natural Monument Species’ would be repealed and instead ‘Serow Protection Areas’ would be designated based on LPCP in the future.
2) To allow serow cull as pest control outside the serow protection areas in cases of necessity.
3) The Agency for Cultural Affairs would bear responsibility for conservation in the protection areas, the Environmental Agency would bear responsibility for management of serow outside the protection areas, and the Forestry Agency for avoiding serow damage on young conifer plantations by non-fatal methods such as fencing and netting.
Conservationists, nature conservation NGOs, and some biologists opposed to this policy change.

Three primary functions were expected from the protection areas were 1) to maintain stable and viable local populations; 2) to preserve the geographical genetic diversity of serow populations; and 3) to establish a management system for serow and its habitat. Fifteen protection areas were nominated and 13 of them had been established by 1989, ranging in size from 143 km² to 2,180 km². The total area is 11,800 km², which covers about 20% of the current serow range over 23 prefectures. However, in many cases, the protection areas avoid commercial forests, and are situated at relatively high elevations including unsuitable habitats for serow. Therefore, some protection areas do not have enough suitable habitat quality and/or area size for the effecitve protection of local populations.

The Agency of Cultural Affairs initiated a systematic survey of serow management in 1985, composed of main and supplemental survey programs. The purpose of main survey program is to monitor population trends and habitat conditions once every 6 or 7 years for each protection area. This program is carried out by specialists. The supplemental survey program is carried out annually, except in the main survey’s year, by local inhabitants to monitor population indices, habitat changes and damage, by simple and easy methods. The data from both programs are used to develop the management plan for each protection area. Protection areas are not yet established in Kyushu and Shikoku due to disagreements with land owners. Therefore, the Japanese serow still retains the status of ‘Special Natural Monument Species’.

In 1978, a control cull began in the restricted small areas of Gifu and Nagano Prefectures, and the culling area has expanded to large part of central Honshu. As a matter of course, control cull is conducted outside the protection areas. The total number of serow removed was over 20,000 by 2005. The damage to conifer plantations in central Honshu markedly decreased in 1990s, because population density of serow in this area and also the area of young conifer plantations have reduced. Two kinds of permissions, based on LPCP and WPHL, are required for control culls of serow. The areas and periods of the control, the upper limit of the harvest number, and the capture methods are specified in the permits. Biological investigation of killed serow has been continued since the beginning of the control. Place and date of capture, sex, age, and reproductive condition are recorded for almost all individuals. These data are used for serow management.

In 1999, the WPHL was amended and the ‘Specified Wildlife Management Plan System’ was established. This is a legal management system and each prefecture can make a plan to properly manage wildlife populations. This plan must state specific goals for the target species, and prescribe concrete measure for properly controlled hunting, preventing negative influences on the population, and conserving habitats. This adaptive management system is considered to be useful and practical for management of serow outside the protection areas, and seven such plans for serow had been established by 2007.

The management system for serow has significantly developed during the last 25 years. Serow populations are stable and/or increasing in most areas, but following problems might affect negatively some populations:
1) Growth of conifer plantations planted for the period from late 1950s to 1980s and over-grazing and/or browsing by sika deer reduce food supply for serow and deteriorate habitat quality.
2) Interspecific competition with sika deer may reduce serow populations.

The serow population has recently decreased in Kyushu. It is considered this decrease is probably caused by interspecific competition with sika deer. Also, the influence of deer control operations, such as disturbance of home ranges and accidental killing by hunting dogs and deer-fencing, might be having an impact. Surveys and countermeasures are needed for these problems.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because they browse on trees, Japanese serows sometimes become pests to the forestry industry as they damage planted trees. They are sometimes killed as a management practice to control damage to forestry plantations.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Traditionally Japanese serows were an important source of meat and hide for people. Currently they are recognized as unique species endemic to Japan and classified as a natural heritage.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; ecotourism ; research and education

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Wikipedia

Japanese serow

The Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus)[a] is a Japanese goat-antelope, an even-toed ungulate mammal. It is found in dense woodland in Japan, primarily in northern and central Honshu. The animal is seen as a national symbol of Japan, and is subject to protection in conservation areas.

Adult Japanese serow stand about 81 centimetres (32 in) tall and weigh 30–45 kilograms (66–99 lb). They are black to whitish, and colouring lightens in summer. The fur is very bushy, especially the tail. It is difficult to distinguish the sexes by sight, both of which have short, backwards-curving horns. Japanese serow are found in dense mountain forests where they eat leaves, shoots, and acorns. They are diurnal and feed in early mornings and late afternoons. Serows are solitary, or gather in couples or small family groups. The animal marks its territory with sweet-and-sour-smelling preorbital gland secretions, and males and females have separate territories that may overlap.

In the mid-20th century the Japanese serow was hunted to near-extinction; in 1955 the Japanese government passed a law designating it a "Special National Monument" to protect it from poachers. Populations have since grown so greatly that IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals ranks it "Least Concern". Complaints of foresters and farmers led in 1979 to the 1955 law's repeal, since which the serow has had protected status in 13 designated protected areas over 23 prefectures, and has been subject to culling as a pest outside conservation areas. Conservationists have labelled it a "living national treasure of the forest". Athletes with superior agility and speed draw comparisons with the serow, and the Yamaha Motor Company has marketed the XT 225 sport motorcycle as the Yamaha Serow.

Taxonomy[edit]

The Japanese Serow was originally described as Antilops crispa, by Coenraad Jacob Temminck, 1886.[3] John Edward Gray gave it its current name in 1846.[b] Pierre Marie Heude proposed many new genera and species in a system published in 1898; Capricornis became Capricornulus, which included three species, crispus, pryerianus, and saxicola. The taxonomy was not widely accepted and is no longer used.[2]

There is no fossil record of the Japanese serow; its evolutionary history is not well known.[4] Its taxonomic position has led to its being called a "living fossil".[5] Karyotype studies indicate it was the earliest species to split from the common Capricornis ancestor.[6] The closest relative to the Japanese Serow is the Formosan Serow (Capricornis swinhoei). Genetically, there is little difference between Japanese and Taiwan serows; their karyotype is essentially the same: 2n=50, FN=60.[7] The Formosan Serow is smaller and shorter-haired, with browner fur and a white patch under the chin and throat.[8]

A photograph of a small, brownish goat-like animal with its head down feeding
Capricornis has sometimes been classified as Naemorhedus together with gorals (pictured: Naemorhedus caudatus or long-tailed goral).

Phylogenetically Capricornis is closest to goats and sheep within Bovidae (Wild Cattle).[7] The nomenclature and status of Capricornis is not completely resolved.[1] Some researchers have considered Capricornis a junior synonym of Naemorhedus,[2] a Genus that includes gorals;[1] but molecular analysis has not supported this classification.[9] Capricornis has a lower canine, which Naemorhedus species usually do not.[2] Capricornis is now usually considered closet to the Muskox (Ovibos moschatus), supported by mtDNA analysis.

In Japan, the serow is widely thought of as a kind of deer, though deer and serows are not closely related, although they're in the same Order (Artiodactyla). In the past, the Japanese word kamoshika[c] was written using the Chinese character for "shika", meaning "deer".[d] Today, when written using Chinese characters, the characters for "antelope" and "sheep"[e] are used. Sometimes the serow is mistaken for a wild boar.[13]

Appearance and anatomy[edit]

The Japanese serow [10] is a small bovid[4] whose displayed morphology is primitive in relation to other bovids. It as a stocky body whose size varies little between sexes or geographic location; it stands about 70–85 centimetres (28–33 in) tall (70–75 centimetres (28–30 in) at the shoulder)[14] and weighs 30–45 kilograms (66–99 lb).[4] The hoof is cloven.[15] Compared to mainland serow, the ears are shorter and the coat is typically longer and woollier—about 10 centimetres (3.9 in) on the body. It has a bushy tail[16] of 6–6.5 centimetres (2.4–2.6 in)[17] and no mane.[16] Fur is whitish around the neck[18] and on the body may be black, black with dorsal white spot, dark brown, or whitish;[4] the coat lightens in summer.[16] There are three well-developed skin glands:[19] large preorbital glands in both sexes, which increase in size as the animal ages;[14] poorly developed[14] interdigital glands in all four legs,[20] and preputial glands.[19] The adult's 32 permanent teeth form by 30 months, and have a dental formula of 0.0.3.33.1.3.3.[19] The inner sides of the teeth become blackened with a hard-to-remove substance, likely tree resin.[21] The tongue has a V-shaped apex.[22]

A Photograph of the skeleton of a goat-like animal
Capricornis crispus skeleton at the Oji Zoo (ja) in Kobe, Japan

Differentiation between the sexes is not well developed;[1] body size, growth, survival, and feeding habits show negligible difference.[23] Both sexes have short,[24] backwards-curving horns measuring 12–16 centimetres (4.7–6.3 in);[f] the sheaths have a series of transverse rings. Horns begin to develop at about four months[22] and continue to grow throughout the lifespan.[14] Environment affects the size of the first growth ring. Size, curvature, and thickness and number of transverse rings are indicative of age. Up to two years, there are thicker transverse rings, of greater length and flexion than in adults; into adulthood, thinner horn rings force the thick transverse rings upward. Growth increment slows earlier in maturation in females than in males.[22] Researchers use genitalia and sexual behaviour to distinguish the sexes.[22] Females have two pairs of mammae.[4]

Hearing is sensitive[26] and eyesight is strong—the serow is able to detect and react to movement from a distance, and it can see well in low lighting. Sense of smell is also strong, and the serow can be observed raising its head and sniffing the air around it.[27]

Distribution, ecology, and behaviour[edit]

Capricornis crispus is the only wild bovine ruminant in Japan,[28] and is endemic to three of the four main islands of Japan: [10] primarily northern and central Honshu, and small areas in Shikoku and Kyushu.[10] It can tolerate colder, snowier climates than mainland serows.[24] The animal is found solitary, in pairs, or in small family groups[1] in open grassland and forests at an elevation of about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft),[16] and uses caves to rest in.[22] It prefers temperate deciduous forest, but also lives in broad-leaved or subalpine coniferous forest[1] made up of Japanese beech Japanese oak (ja),[29] alpine meadow, and coniferous plantations.[1] Population density is low, at an average of 2.6 per square kilometre (6.7 /sq mi),[1] and no greater than 20 per square kilometre (52 /sq mi).[14]

A photograph of two small, grey goat-antelopes, resting in a rocky area.
Japanese serows live alone or in small family groups.

C. crispus is philopatric[14] and territorial,[7] and marks trees with sweet-sour-smelling preorbital gland secretions to indicate its territory.[30] Males and females establish separate, overlapping ranges, typically 10–15 hectares (25–37 acres),[31] the male's typically larger than the female's.[14] Aggression is rare, but the serow may react with hostility to territorial breaches.[7] The animal has few predators, as Japanese wolves have become extinct; bears may prey on the serow. It flees with a whistling snort when it detects danger.[24] It is an agile, sure-footed mountain dweller that is able to sprint up mountains and to jump from cliff to cliff to safety, an agility hunters have likened to the ninja.[32]

The diurnal[1] Japanese serow is a browser[33] that feeds in early morning and late afternoon, primarily on fleshy or coniferous leaves, plant shoots, and acorns.[1] It feeds on alder, sedge, Japanese witch-hazel (Hamamelis Japonica), and Japanese cedar.[24] It adjusts its diet to what food is locally available,[34] and as a ruminant, the serow has a four-chambered stomach.[35] Studies indicate that even severe winters have negligible impact on the serow's food intake, suggesting that, given its solitary social structure, it selects its territory to ensure sufficient food supply.[36] Defecation occurs in set locations.[14]

Life expectancies may be up to 20–25 years.[g][37] Parapoxvirus is common, though rarely fatal; Infection causes papular and nodular lesions.[22] There have been epidemics of contagious pustular dermatitis.[38] Bacteria such as E. coli and Lyme borreliosis are common,[22] and Toxoplasma gondii has been reported.[39] C. crispus is susceptible to numerous parasites, such as the nematode Trichuris discolor and the lungworm Protostrongylus shiozawai.[22]

Reproduction[edit]

Capricornis crispus is socially monogamous.[h][40] Females reach sexual maturity at 30 months.[1] First breeding takes place at age 2.5–3 years; breeding occurs once a year,[24] between September and January.[41] In a courtship ritual resembling that of goats or gazelles, the male Japanese serow licks the female's mouth, strikes her on the hind legs with his forelegs, and rubs her genitalia with his horns.[16] Both sexes display Flehmen responses.[7]

Birth takes place between June and August[16] after a gestation period of about 210–220 days.[19] It takes about half an hour, as the female walks about. The single fawn is 30 centimetres (1 ft) tall and reaches adult height in a year.[24] The fawn stays with its mother for a year or two. It then moves gradually from its mother's range until it establishes its own.[31] Young that do not disperse on their own may be chased away by the mother.[7]

Relationship with humans[edit]

The earliest record of human contact with the serow is of a small number of prehistoric Jōmon period bones unearthed by archaeologists, primarily in mountainous regions. It is speculated the serow was hunted for its hide and for food.[42] What is believed to be the earliest written record appears in the Nihon Shoki (720): the Emperor Temmu (r. 672–686) sent the hides of a yamashishi to senior statesmen; this yamasshishi likely refers to the serow, and recurs elsewhere in the Nihon Shoki.[43] The 8th-century Man'yōshū contains a waka poem by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro that mentions a group of shishi; a number of writers have concluded this animal is the serow, but others have pointed out the serow is normally solitary.[44] Heian period (794–1185) documents record gifts of serow horns brought to the capital. Japan's earliest extant medical work, the Daidōruijuhō (ja) (808), appears to record the use of serow horn and flesh for medicinal purposes.[45]

Encyclopaedia page featuring a drawing of a deer-like animal.  It is surrounded with Japanese writing.
An entry on the serow in the 1712 encyclopaedia Wakan Sansai Zue

For centuries following the Heian period mention of the serow becomes scarce. There is some belief that it was still hunted for medicinal use. The Edo period (1603–1868) saw records increase. The Wakan Sansai Zue encyclopaedia of 1712 contains an illustrated entry on the serow. Laws prohibiting hunting (ja) came into effect, but exception were made where animals damaged crops.[45] Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, realistic depictions appeared of the serow, beginning with one in Keisuke Ito's Fauna Japonica (1870).[45]

Hunting and conservation[edit]

The serow has long been hunted in Japan, especially in northern Japan where, along with bear-hunting, serow-hunting was strongly associated with matagi culture. Throughout Japan's mountainous regions the serow has been a valued catch, its various body parts used without waste. Prized in particular its meat—until the mid-20th century serow meat was so widely eaten in these regions the animal itself was known as "meat".[i] Its waterproof hides were used for rafters' backflaps, its horns were ground as a preventative against diseases such as beriberi, and a cure for stomachaches was made from the serow's small intestines and gall bladder.[46]

An animal that once inhabited deep forests far from populated areas, the Japanese serow has increasingly penetrated the outskirts of villages.[47] In western Honshū, it had become extinct by the 20th century.[1] Elsewhere it had been hunted to such a severe degree that the Japanese government declared it a "Non-Game Species" in a 1925 hunting law. In 1934 the Law for Protection of Cultural Properties designated it a "Natural Monument Species".[j][1] Poaching continued, so in 1955 the government declared the Japanese serow a "Special Natural Monument",[k][10] at which point overhunting had brought its numbers to 2000–3000.[16] Populations grew as the police put an end to poaching, and post-War monoculture conifer plantations created favourable environments for the animal. By the 1980s, population estimates had grown to up to 100,000 and serow range had reached 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi).[10] Between 1978 and 2003, its distribution increased 170%, and population had stabilized.[1]

Black-and-white illustration of a goat-antelope on a rocky hilltop.
Capricornis crispus, or the Japanese serow (Frank Evers Beddard, 1902)

Conflicts with agriculture and forestry led to a 1978 repeal of the full protection the animal received under the 1955 designation. Thenceforth 13[l] designated protection areas were established over 23 prefectures.[48] They cover about 20% of the serow range, have a total area of 11,800 square kilometres (4,600 sq mi), and range in size from 143 square kilometres (55 sq mi) to 2,180 square kilometres (840 sq mi). Culling removed 20,000 outside of conservation areas between 1978 and 2005.[1]

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals ranked the Japanese serow as "Least Concern" in 2008, as it has wide distribution in Japan, and a large, stable or increasing population.[1] The Law for Protection of Cultural Properties (ja)[m] and Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law (ja)[n] provide for the legal management of the Japanese serow. In 1979 the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Environmental Agency, and Forestry Agency reached an agreement on serow management measures, such as the establishment of protection areas and culling as pest control. The measures met with resistance from conservationists, naturalist organizations, and some biologists, as the animal had previously been fully protected. A 1999 amendment to the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law allowed prefectures to manage wildlife populations; by 2007 seven plans had been established for serow management outside of conservation areas.[1]

A photograph of a dark grey goat-antelope in a forest.  It stands through trees in the centre distance, body facing left, face towards the camera.
Foresters lament timber damage from the Japanese serow (photo in Wakinosawa, Aomori).

Foresters have raised concerns that the rising serow populations have interfered with post-War mountainside reforestation efforts, as the animal feeds on the saplings[49] of Japanese cypress, Japanese cedar, and Japanese red pine, species with commercial significance.[10] Serow have caused damage to farm crops in mountain villages,[50] and the villagers have objected to conservationists' efforts. Damage by serows to forests has been characterized in parts of Japan in criminal or martial terms: the media have referred to the problems as ningen to shika no sensō ("the war between humans and deer") and kamoshika sensō, ("serow war").[51] Frustration with government and conservationists led 400 foresters to launch a lawsuit in the 1980s over serow damage to timber plantations.[52] Foresters in Gifu Prefecture have justified the shooting of serows in the legs, as such shooting would not be fatal.[51] Estimating accurate population numbers has been difficult.[53] Foresters see the serow as a harmful animal, and resent government interference in controlling serow-hunting.[54] They have accused the government and wildlife experts of undercounting serows, while conservationists have counteraccused that foresters may inflate population numbers and levels of forestry damage to promote their own interests.[53]

Conservationists such as Shin Gotō believe that the increased visibility is due not to an absolute increase in populations, but to deforestation which has driven the animal further from its traditional home.[53] Serows close to populated areas may feed on farms and cypress, including saplings.[55] Clearcutting practices may also contribute to the problem, as clearcut forests create areas of rapid herbaceous growth ideal for herbivores, who see population increases. The situation is temporary, though, and after regrowth of trees leads to the forest canopy closing over after 15–20 years, the herbivore populations are displaced as the herbaceous growth ceases to flourish.[55] In the 1990s, as the number of young plantations decreased, so did forestry damage from serows; concern instead turned to damage caused by sika deer, wild boars, and Japanese macaques. In Kyushu in particular, increased grazing and browsing competition from sika deer may be slowing growth of serow populations.[1]

Conservation areas[edit]

Japanese serow conservation areas[56]
NameEstablishedSize
ha (acres)
Prefecture(s)
EnglishJapanese
Shimokita PeninsulaShimokita HantōApril 198137,300 (92,000)Aomori
Kita-Ōu MountainsKita-Ōu SankeiFebruary 1984105,000 (260,000)
Kitakami Sankei (ja)Kitakami SankeiJuly 198241,000 (100,000)Iwate
Minami-Ōu MountainsMinami-Ōu SankeiNovember 198457,700 (143,000)
Asahi—Iide MountainsAsahi—Iide SankeiMarch 1985122,000 (300,000)
EchigoNikkōMikuni MountainsEchigo—Nikkō—Mikuni SankeiMay 1984215,200 (532,000)
Kantō MountainsKantō SanchiNovember 198479,000 (200,000)
Minami AlpsMinami ArupusuFebruary 1980122,000 (300,000)
Kita AlpsKita ArupusuNovember 1979195,600 (483,000)
ShirayamaShirayamaFebruary 198253,700 (133,000)
Suzuka MountainsSuzuka SanchiSeptember 198314,100 (35,000)
IbukiHira MountainsIbuki—Hira SankeiMarch 198667,500 (167,000)
Kii MountainsKii SankeiJuly 198979,500 (196,000)
Shikoku MountainsShikoku SanchiTBATBA
Kyushu MountainsKyushu SanchiTBATBA

Cultural significance[edit]

A postage stamp featuring a sepia illustration of a goat-antelope standing on a snow-covered, forested hilltop.  Stylized Japanese writing in the top left corner reads: "日本郵便".  Immediately below this writing is a large "8".
The Japanese serow featured on a 1952 ¥8 stamp

Labelled a "living national treasure of the forest",[o] the Japanese serow has achieved emblematic status in Japan with national associations. It is seen as a relic species harking back to the formation of the Japanese archipelago as distinct from mainland Asia. In a symbolic gesture in 1973, the Chinese government gifted Japan a giant panda, to which the Japanese government returned two Japanese serow. Municipalities and other regions of Japan have adopted the serow as a local symbol.[57]

In Japan, the Japanese serow is most commonly known as kamoshika or kamoshishi. It has historically been given a variety of names, often based on its appearance, some of which translate as "mountain sheep", "wool deer", "nine tail cow", and "cow demon". Regional names abound, some of which translate as "dancing beast", "foolish beast", or "idiot". Japanese people often characterize the serow as "weird" or "abnormal", and it is seen as a "phantom animal" as it tends to live alone in the depths of distant forests, and appears to observe forest workers from areas high in the mountains.[58]

The serow has a reputation in Japan for its speed and agility. In Japanese, the word for "fail an exam" is the same as "to fall"; as the serow is known for its sure-footedness on mountain cliffs, students can buy charms marked with a serow hoofprint. Superior athletes are metaphorically compared to the serow, as it is known not only for its agility, but also its sprinting ability. The Yamaha Motor Company has marketed the XT 225 sport motorcycle as the Yamaha Serow, and the title character of the Miyazaki-directed animated film Princess Mononoke (1997) uses a serow-like creature as a mount.[32]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Japanese serow (Japanese: ニホンカモシカ Hepburn: Nihon kamoshika?)
  2. ^ As Capricornis crispa; Robert Swinhoe amended it for gender agreement in 1870.[2]
  3. ^ In Japanese, the word "kamoshika" refers both to serow and antelope species.[10]
  4. ^ "Deer" (Japanese: 鹿 Hepburn: shika?)[11]
  5. ^ Japanese serow ("antelope-sheep") (Japanese: 羚羊 Hepburn: kamoshika?)[12]
  6. ^ A mean of 14.5 centimetres (5.7 in) for 30 males and 13.7 centimetres (5.4 in) for 30 females was found in a 1985 study at Gifu University.[25]
  7. ^ Estimates place life expectancy at birth at 4.8–6.5 years,[1]
  8. ^ Although the Japanese serow is generally monogamous, a 1996 study showed that 20% of males to be polygynous with two females.[7]
  9. ^ "Meat" (Japanese: Hepburn: niku?)[46]
  10. ^ "Natural Monument" (Japanese: 天然記念物 Hepburn: ten'nen kinenbutsu?)
  11. ^ "Special Natural Monument" (Japanese: 特別天然記念物 Hepburn: tokubetsu ten'nen kinenbutsu?)
  12. ^ 15 such areas were originally proposed. Disputes with landowners have prevented their establishment in Kyushu and Shikoku.[1]
  13. ^ Law for Protection of Cultural Properties (Japanese: 文化財保護法 Hepburn: bunkazai hogo-hō?)
  14. ^ Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law (Japanese: 鳥獣の保護及び狩猟の適正化に関する法律 Hepburn: chōjū no hogo oyobi shuryō no tekiseika ni kansuru hōritsu?)
  15. ^ "living national treasure of the forest" (Japanese: 森の生きている国宝 Hepburn: mori no ikiteiru kokuhō?)[57]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Tokida 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jass & Mead 2004, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b Tokida 2008; Grubb 2005.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jass & Mead 2004, p. 2.
  5. ^ Togashi et al. 2009, p. 412.
  6. ^ Wei et al. 2013, p. 6800.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Jass & Mead 2004, p. 5.
  8. ^ Lue 1987, p. 125.
  9. ^ Min, et al. 2004, p. 369.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Maruyama, Ikeda & Tokida 1997, p. 271.
  11. ^ Knight 2003, p. 128.
  12. ^ Knight 2003, p. 129.
  13. ^ Knight 2003, pp. 128–129.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Abe 2008, p. 113.
  15. ^ Knight 2003, p. 125.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Burton & Burton 2002, p. 2323.
  17. ^ Iijima & Tsuchiya 2010, p. 115.
  18. ^ Iijima & Tsuchiya 2010, p. 114.
  19. ^ a b c d Jass & Mead 2004, p. 3.
  20. ^ Atoji, Suzuki & Sugimura 1988, p. 159.
  21. ^ Nawa 2009, p. 23.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h Jass & Mead 2004, p. 4.
  23. ^ Ochiai & Susaki 2002, p. 970.
  24. ^ a b c d e f Burton & Burton 2002, p. 2324.
  25. ^ Ochiai & Susaki 2002, p. 964.
  26. ^ Nawa 2009, p. 26.
  27. ^ Nawa 2009, p. 25.
  28. ^ Honda, Tatsukawa & Miura 1987, p. 365.
  29. ^ Doko & Chen 2013, p. 53.
  30. ^ Ono 2000, p. 25.
  31. ^ a b Knight 2003, p. 126.
  32. ^ a b Knight 2003, p. 130.
  33. ^ Jiang et al. 2008, p. 1220.
  34. ^ Natori & Porter 2007, p. 1443.
  35. ^ Honda, Tatsukawa & Miura 1987, p. 368.
  36. ^ Natori & Porter 2007, p. 1456.
  37. ^ Tokida 2008; Jass & Mead 2004, p. 4.
  38. ^ Inoshima 2010, p. 701.
  39. ^ Sakae & Ishida 2012, p. 224; Jass & Mead 2004, p. 4.
  40. ^ Kishimoto 2003, p. 147.
  41. ^ Togashi et al. 2009, p. 415.
  42. ^ Nawa 2009, p. 166.
  43. ^ Nawa 2009, pp. 166–167.
  44. ^ Nawa 2009, p. 167.
  45. ^ a b c Nawa 2009, p. 168.
  46. ^ a b Knight 2003, p. 145.
  47. ^ Knight 2003, p. 150.
  48. ^ Maruyama, Ikeda & Tokida 1997, p. 273.
  49. ^ Knight 2003, pp. 157–158.
  50. ^ Knight 2003, p. 137.
  51. ^ a b Knight 2003, p. 147.
  52. ^ Knight 2003, pp. 148–150.
  53. ^ a b c Knight 2003, p. 151.
  54. ^ Knight 2003, p. 157.
  55. ^ a b Knight 2003, p. 152.
  56. ^ Ono 2000, p. 145.
  57. ^ a b Knight 2003, p. 148.
  58. ^ Knight 2003, pp. 129–130.

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