Muntiacus muntjak, also known as the Indian muntjac, have small antlers present in males which are relatively short with long burrs. The females have tufts of hair and small bony knobs that are in the location of the antlers in males. They have a short coat of hair. The coat can be thick and dense for those living in cooler climates, or thin and less dense for those living in warmer areas. The color of the coat is golden tan on the dorsal side, white on the ventral side, and the limbs and face are dark brown. The ears have very little hair. These deer also posses tusklike upper canines measuring about 1 inch long in males. Their body length ranges from 89-135 cm. Their shoulder height and the length of their tail ranges from 40-65 cm and 13-23 cm respectively. The males tend to be larger than the females.
Range mass: 14 to 35 kg.
Range length: 89 to 135 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Habitat and Ecology
This muntjac has a wide altitudinal range. In Java, S. Hedges (pers. comm. 2008) has seen them over 0–800 m. In Sumatra, it occurs widely in the lowlands and the second species there, M. montanus, seems to be montane; whether M. muntjak ascends to the highest forests is yet unclear (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on examination of specimens). On Borneo, Red Muntjac lives up to at least 1,000 m asl on the Usun Apau plateau (Payne et al. 1985), who stated that “available data suggests that [M. atherodes] predominates over the Red Muntjac in low hill ranges and coastal regions”, but Meijaard and Sheil (2008) pointed out that still “no robust quantitative data exist to support this [pattern]”. Red Muntjac is scarcer than M. atherodes in Sungai Wain forest, Kalimantan, which spans 30–150 m asl (G.M. Fredriksson pers. comm. 2008), in the Sarawak Planted Forests, Bintulu Division, a mix of acacia plantation and natural forest (Belden et al. 2007; Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008), and (slightly so) in the Ulu Segama area of Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sabah, which lies mostly at about 300 m asl (Siew Te Wong pers. comm. 2008). In Borneo, muntjacs were frequently seen, suspected to comprise roughly equal numbers of Red and Yellow, in the Batang Ai National Park, Sarawak, which lies mostly at 100–760 m asl (Meredith 1995).
The diet is mostly fruits, buds, tender leaves, flowers, herbs and young grass (Kitchener et al. 1990; Oka 1998). In Taman Negara, Malaysia, camera-trapping showed Red Muntjac to be mostly diurnal (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004) whereas in Gunung Leuser, Sumatra, it was classed as cathemeral (i.e., sporadic and random intervals of activity during the day or night) (van Schaik and Griffiths 1996) and this is true for East Java (S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008); there may be some variation between localities in balance of day and night activity. It is a mostly solitary species that is capable of breeding through the year, and has been stated to be territorial (Kitchener et al. 1990; Oka 1998). However, Tyson (2007) found no evidence of territoriality in radio-collared female muntjacs of Baluran National Park, Java, although range overlap declined in the rainy season compared with the dry season. Nor was there evidence of males using exclusive ranges in any season, or any clear evidence of territorial defence. As in the case of M. vaginalis, occasional sightings of small groups probably refer to mating pairs, or to females with offspring (Oka 1998), or to loose aggregations at abundant food resources (M. Tyson pers. comm. 2008).
Muntjac habitat includes rain forests, areas of dense vegetation, hilly country, and monsoon forests. They like to be close to a water source.
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Muntjacs are omnivorous, feeding on herbs, fruit, birds' eggs, small animals, sprouts, seeds, and grasses. They use their canines to bite and their forelegs to deliver strong blows in order to catch small warm-blooded animals.
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 17.6 years.
Status: captivity: 17.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
In the first year of life, the female muntjac reaches sexual maturity. They are polyestrous with the estrous cycle lasting 14-21 days and the estrus lasting about 2 days. Breeding is not restricted to a specific time of the year. They usually bear just one young at a time. The gestation period is around 180 days and the weight at birth is between 550 and 650 g.
Average birth mass: 1223 g.
Average gestation period: 210 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.17.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 332 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 272 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Muntiacus muntjak
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.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Muntiacus muntjak
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern
A study done in 1987 showed that there are 140,000-150,000 Muntiacus muntjak in China. They have been introduced in Texas, the Andaman Islands, and on Lombok. Muntjaks also thrive very well in zoos. The IUCN rates the species Lower Risk, Least Concern.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
However, there is no strong evidence that either hunting or habitat disruption are actually threats to the survival of populations except in the case of islands such as Singapore, where it is now extinct (Baker and Lim 2008). Peak densities are not in pristine forest (see Habitat and Ecology), and in Danum Valley (Sabah, Borneo), an area with negligible hunting, M. muntjak strongly increased in densities after logging (Heydon 1994; Davies et al. 2001); a weaker increase was found by Duff et al. (1984). Hence, even quite severe habitat disruption can increase ecological carrying capacity for this muntjac, at least temporarily.
In an area with heavy hunting, recorded densities of muntjacs (presumed M. muntjak) were twice as high in areas with low than with high human population density within 10 km of the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra, but this difference was not statistically significant (O'Brien et al. 2003). Poaching pressure in Kerinci-Seblat National Park, Sumatra, among snared ungulates was greatest for muntjac as assessed by the diameter of the cable. Snaring is locally very high in the protected area, e.g. 51 snares (mostly of size suitable for muntjac) were found in 1 km² (Linkie et al. 2003), although it is much less intense than in areas of Indochina supporting the related M. vaginalis (J. Holden pers. comm. 2008). Data are too sparse to determine whether this hunting is driving declines. Habitat loss is also severe including within parts of the park (Linkie et al. 2003), and is an increasing phenomenon in Java (S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008).
Muntjacs are widely and heavily hunted on Borneo for meat, skins, and as a source of traditional remedies (Bennett et al. 2000; Mohd Azlan J. pers. comm. 2008; Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008; G.M. Fredriksson pers. comm. 2008; A.C. Sebastian pers. comm. 2008; Siew Te Wong pers. comm. 2008). Traditionally, hunting used traps, dogs and spears, and blowpipes. Hunters in remote parts of the interior still use these methods, but most animals now die by gunfire. Sarawak held 60,000 legally registered shotguns while Sabah held almost 13,000 in the mid 1990s (Bennett et al. 2000). Methods used in Indonesia include guns and spotlights along logging roads, snaring, and dogs (G.M. Fredriksson pers. comm. 2008; S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008). The combination of dogs and guns may be particularly efficient (Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008). Snaring is still very heavy outside well-secured areas, but shotguns remain the even bigger problem (Bennett et al. 2000; J. Mohd Azlan pers. comm. 2008; Siew Te Wong pers. comm. 2008). Unaccompanied packs of stray or even perhaps feral dogs are also likely to be a threat, particularly in forest isolates close to urban areas (e.g. Similajau National Park; J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2008). It is unlikely that hunters make any distinction between the two Bornean muntjac species directly, although it is plausible that M. muntjak is under lower hunting pressure than is M. atherodes reflecting its purported predominance in the hills and mountains (although there is little empirical evidence to support this), whereas most of the logging concessions currently lie in the lowlands. Some ethnic groups, at least the Punan, have traditional beliefs against eating muntjac meat (Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008), but over most of (at least) Malaysian Borneo, “in general, everyone will hunt and eat anything” (Bennett et al. 2000). Much hunting is for the market rather than local use, so there is a limitless demand. Bennett and Gumal (2001) profiled the hunting of ungulates in Sarawak in the mid 1990s thus: muntjacs (along with Bearded Hog Sus barbatus and Sambar Rusa unicolor) are heavily shot for wild meat trade across Sarawak, and these ungulates are the species most sought by the restaurants. Wild meat is widely sold in towns, villages, restaurants and logging camps throughout Sarawak; 250 sales outlets were estimated across the state in 1996, with an annual trade worth 3.75 million USD. Along the Rejang river alone, in the mid 1980s, 250 muntjacs were sold per year (Caldecott 1988). The market for meat is great and probably expanding. There were, then, no controls on commercial hunting of non-protected species (including muntjacs). The Master Plan for Wildlife in Sarawak (Wildlife Conservation Society and Sarawak Forest Department 1996) introduced a strict ban on all wildlife trade, shotgun ownership and cartridge sales in the late 1990s (Bennett and Gumal 2001). Substantial numbers of muntjacs are, nevertheless, still killed in the state, as they are elsewhere in Borneo.
Bennett et al. (2000) considered the effects of this onslaught upon muntjacs (not distinguished to species) through a lengthy hunting study in February 1993 to June 1995, in both Bornean states of Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah), each with eight study areas. Muntjacs constituted only 3–10% of animals killed, but index counts of signs show an inverse relationship between sign index and hunting pressure so strong that the latter over-rode the effects of habitat variables in determining their densities. Hunting was so ubiquitous, even in protected areas, that in the two states, only one site (part of Danum Valley, Sabah) could be found as a control, where there was primary forest but negligible hunting levels. They concluded that “the only single factor offering any effective protection for [quarry species of] wildlife is difficulty of access”; whether animals are protected or non-protected species, inside or outside protected areas, had no significant restraint on hunting levels. In the interim, much forest has been lost and muntjac populations in the smaller and more isolated areas that remain must now be more vulnerable to local extinctions.
There seem to be no species-specific conservation measures in need of implementation, above turning existing laws on protected areas and protected wildlife into reality, with a particular focus on eradicating wildlife trade.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
In some areas, where the population is large, they destroy a large number of trees by tearing off the bark. This in turn can lead to a loss of food sources as well as a loss of wood that can be used to provide shelter.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Hunters of pheasants in India can rely on the barking noises made by the muntjac as a warning signal of an approaching predator. This could be a leopard or tiger which in turn can pose a threat to the hunters themselves. The muntjac itself can be hunted for its meat and skins.
The Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), also called the red muntjac, common muntjac or barking deer, is the most numerous muntjac deer species. It has soft, short, brownish or greyish hair, sometimes with creamy markings. This species is omnivorous, feeding on grass,fruits, shoots, seeds, birds' eggs as well as small animals. It sometimes even displays scavenging behavior, feeding on carrion. It gives calls similar to barking, usually upon sensing a predator (hence the common name for all muntjacs of barking deer).
The male Indian muntjac has small, unbranched antlers which grow to about 15 centimeters (5.9 in) in length. The antlers grow annually from a bony stalk on the top of the head. Males are extremely territorial and—despite their diminutive size—can be quite fierce. They will fight each other for territory using their antlers or their (more dangerous) tusk-like upper canine teeth, and can even defend themselves against certain predators such as dogs.
The Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) is also commonly called the "barking deer" due to the bark-like sound that it makes as an alarm when danger is present. It is also called "Kakar". Sometimes these deer will bark for an hour or more. This species is one of eleven different species of muntjacs spread across Asia. The Indian muntjacs specifically are widespread throughout Southern Asia, but are one of the least known Asian animals. Paleontological evidence proves that Indian muntjacs have been around since the late Pleistocene epoch at least 12,000 years ago. Since then, they have played a major role in Southern Asia, being hunted for sport as well as for their meat and skin. Often these animals are hunted around the outskirts of agricultural areas as they are considered a nuisance for damaging crops and ripping bark from trees. However, this animal is still in an abundance in Southern Asia, numbering anywhere from 140,000-150,000 in India alone as of 2004.
The Indian muntjac has a short but very soft, thick, dense coat, especially those living in cooler regions. Coloration of the coat changes from dark brown to yellowish and grayish brown depending on the season. The muntjacs' coat is golden tan on the dorsal side and white on the ventral side of the body, the limbs are dark brown to reddish brown, and the face is dark brown. However, the ears have very little hair which barely covers them. Male muntjacs have antlers that are very short, about 1-2 inches, usually consisting of only two or three points at the most and protrude from long body hair covered pedicels on the forehead. Females have tufts of fur and small bony knobs where the antlers are located in males. Males also have slightly elongated upper canines about an inch long that curve slightly outward from the lips and have the capability to inflict serious injury upon other animals or to other members of the population while exhibiting aggression. Males are generally larger than females. The body length of muntjacs varies from 35-53 in wide and their height ranges from 15-26 in tall.
The Indian muntjac is among the most widespread but least known of all mammals in South Asia. It is found in Bangladesh, southern China, northeastern India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Malay Peninsula, the Riau Archipelago, Sumatra, Bangka Island, Belitung, Java, Bali, and Borneo. This species is most densely located in Southeast Asia.
The Indian muntjac is found in tropical and subtropical deciduous forests, grasslands, savannas, and scrub forests, as well as in the hilly country on the slopes of the Himalayas. They are found at altitudes ranging from sea level up to 3,000 meters (9,800 ft). They never wander far from water. Also, males usually have their own territory, which may overlap the territories of a few females but not of another male.
The Indian muntjacs are classified as omnivores. They are considered both browsers and grazers with a diet consisting of grasses, ivy, prickly bushes, low growing leaves, bark, twigs, herbs, fruit, sprouts, seeds, tender shoots, bird eggs and small warm-blooded animals. Indian muntjacs are typically found feeding at the edge of the forest or in abandoned clearings. The muntjac’s found in the Nilgiri-Wayand area of south India are always sited in the large tea estates, as they feed mostly the tea seeds. Their large canine teeth help in the processes of retrieving and ingesting food.
The Indian muntjacs are polygamous animals. Females sexually mature during their first to second year of life. These females are polyestrous, with each cycle lasting about 14 to 21 days and an estrus lasting for 2 days. The gestation period is six to seven months and they usually bear one offspring at a time but sometimes produce twins. Females usually give birth in dense growth so that they are hidden from the rest of the herd and predators. The young leaves its mother after about six months to establish its own territory. Males often fight between one another for possession of a harem of females. Indian muntjacs are distinguished from other even-toed ungulates in showing no evidence of a specific breeding season within the species.
Other than during the rut (mating season) and for the first six months after giving birth, the adult Indian muntjac is a solitary animal. Adult males in particular are well spaced and marking grass and bushes with secretions from their preorbital glands appears to be involved in the acquisition and maintenance of territory. Males acquire territories that they mark with scent markers by rubbing their preorbital glands (located on their face, just below the eyes) on the ground and on trees, scraping their hooves against the ground, and scraping the bark of trees with their lower incisors. These scent markers allow other muntjacs to know whether a territory is occupied or not. Males will often fight with each other over these territories, sufficient vegetation, and for primary preference over females when mating using their short antlers and an even more dangerous weapon, their canines. If a male is not strong enough to acquire his own territory he will most likely become prey to a leopard or some other predator. During the time of the rut, territorial lines are temporarily disregarded and overlap while males roam constantly in search of a receptive female.
These deer are highly alert creatures. When put into a stressful situation or if a predator is sensed, muntjacs will begin making a bark-like sound. Barking was originally thought of as a means of communication between the deer during mating season as well as an alert. However, in more recent studies it has been identified as a mechanism used solely in alarming situations meant to cause a predator to realize that it has been detected and move elsewhere or to reveal itself. The barking mechanism is used more frequently when visibility is reduced and can last for over an hour regarding one incident.
There are 15 subspecies:
- M. m. annamensis, Indochina
- M. m. aureus, peninsular India
- M. m. bancanus, Belitung and Bangka islands
- M. m. curvostylis, Thailand
- M. m. grandicornis, Burmese muntjac, Burma
- M. m. malabaricus, South India and Sri Lanka
- M. m. montanus, mountain muntjac, Sumatra
- M. m. muntjak, Javan muntjac, Java and south Sumatra
- M. m. nainggolani, Bali and Lombok Islands
- M. m. nigripes, black-footed or black-legged muntjac, Vietnam and Hainan Island
- M. m. peninsulae, Malaysia
- M. m. pleicharicus, South Borneo
- M. m. robinsoni, Bintan Island and Lingga Islands
- M. m. rubidus, north Borneo
- M. m. vaginalis, Burma to southwest China
The female Indian muntjac deer is the mammal with the lowest recorded diploid number of chromosomes, where 2n = 6. The male has a diploid number of 7 chromosomes. The similar Reeves's Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi), in comparison, has a diploid number of 46 chromosomes.
- Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W., Hedges, S., Pattanavibool, A., Steinmetz, R., Semiadi, G., Tyson, M. & Boeadi (2008). Muntiacus muntjak. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
- Grubb, P. (2005). "Muntiacus muntjak". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 667. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Eisenberg, JF; McKay, GM (1974). "Comparison of ungulate adaptations in the new world and the old world tropical forests with special reference to Ceylon and the rainforests of Central America". In Geist, V; Walther, F. The behaviour of ungulates and its relation to management. Morges, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. pp. 584–602.
- Kinnear, J. F. "Chromosomes: How Many?" Nature of Biology Third Edition. Book 2. Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd, 2006.
- Doris H. Wurster and Kurt Benirschke: Indian Momtjac, Muntiacus muntiak: A Deer with a Low Diploid Chromosome Number. Science 12 June 1970: Vol. 168. no. 3937, pp. 1364 - 1366.
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- Nowak, Ronald M. "Muntjacs, or Barking Deer." Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th ed. 2 vols. Baltimore: The John Hopkins UP, 1999.