Moschus fuschus is found in the southeastern Xizang and western Yunnan portions of China. This species is also found in northern Burma and southeastern Tibet.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )
Moschus fuscus resembles a small deer, with weights varying between 10 and 15 kg, and lengths varying between 70 and 100 cm. Hind legs are notably longer and more robust than front legs, allowing for saltatorial motion. Males and females are similar in size, and neither have antlers. Both sexes have thick, coarse hair which provides protection from harsh alpine climates. Pelage is generally brown, although there is a good deal of variation in base color, as well in vibrancy of markings such as spotting. Hair is generally paler ventrally and on inner surfaces of legs. There is a yearly molt. Males show elongate unrooted upper canines, which form curved sabers that can extend well below the lower jaw at maturity. The upper canines of females are always present but do not extend out of the mouth. The dental formula is (i0/1 c1/1 p3/3 m3/3)=34. Eyes and ears are large and well developed. Moschus does not have the facial glands of most Cervids, and unlike most Cervids, also posesses a gall bladder. Mature males have a musk gland, located ventrally between navel and genetalia, which is absent in females and juveniles. Females have two mammae.
Range mass: 10 to 15 kg.
Range length: 70 to 100 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; ornamentation
Musk deer are found in moderately steep alpine and sub-alpine forested regions, often near rocky areas and treeline. Moschus fuscus is commonly found at elevations between 2,600 and 3,600 m.
Range elevation: 2600 to 3600 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
Moschus fuscus is an herbivorous ruminant, and has been known to consme grass, forbes, and lichens, as well as some browse.
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; bryophytes; lichens
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
The role of these animals within their ecosystem has not been reported. We may reasonably infer that they have some impact on vegetation through their foraging behavior. They are also important in food webs, as evidenced by the high number of lynx scats found with musk deer remains.
The principle predator of musk deer is Homo sapiens, which hunts these animals for their musk glands. Lynx, wolverine , and yellow-throated marten have been known to prey on young musk deer. One study found musk deer remains in 43% of lynx feces. Musk deer may evade their predators by remaining cryptic and using the dense vegetation they inhabit to hide.
- yellow-throated marten
Life History and Behavior
It is reported that Moschus communicates through scent from interdigital, caudal, and musk glands, as well as through urination and defecation. Musk deer also make a low, hissing noise, and fight when put together in ill fated attempts to raise them commercially. Their large ears and eyes suggest keen hearing and eyesight, and reliance on these senses. Although not specifically reported, we can infer that tactile communication is important, especially between mothers and their offspring and mates.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
There is little known about the lifespan of M. fuscus although other captive Moschus have been found to live up to 20 years in captivity.
While there is little known about M. fuscus in particular, other musk deer have been known to come into estrus from the end of November and into December, over a period of about three to four weeks. Males mate with multiple females. In Moschus moschiferus, males scent mark and defend a territory during breeding season. The scent gland present on male M. fuscus implies that they probably engage in similar behavior.
Mating System: polygynous
Gestation lasts from 185 to 195 days. Parturition is in June and July, and females usually have one to two young. Although data from M. fuscus are not available, it is reasonable to assume that development of the young is similar to that seen in other members of the genus. Moschus young are spotted at birth, and typically weigh around 500 g. Weaning occurs between 3 and 4 months of age, and full size is reached around the age of 6 months. Because of this, we can assume that it is possible for females to produce young annually. Both males and females apparently reach sexual maturity around 18 months of age.
Breeding interval: Females probably produce young annually.
Breeding season: Breeding takes place in November and December.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Range gestation period: 185 to 195 days.
Range weaning age: 3 to 4 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Parental care in this species has not been described extensively. Artiodactyls are generally precocial. Females nurse their young for approximately 3 to 4 months. During this time, it is likely that the young travel with the female as she forages. Females probably provide defense for their young as well as grooming. It is not known whether young continue to associate with their mother past weaning. The role of males in parental care is unknown.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
It is assumed that M. fuscus is very rare, although the population size is unknown, as the distribution is limited. The species is listed in CITES Appendix 1.
All musk deer have been hunted extensively for the musk glands of the mature males. During the 1960s when musk prices were high, the annual kill rate in China was about 500,000 animals. This overexploitation led to an extreme populaion crash, with the estimated number of musk deer in China falling to one million from about three million (in the 1950s). The population of Siberian musk deer was estimated to fall 70% in roughly a decade (from the 1980s to 1990s) due to overhunting.
Habitat destruction is another concern, with deforestation the main source of habitat loss.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/near threatened(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
Musk deer appear to require dense vegetation, either in the form of intact forests or shrublands; thus excessive forest clearing or grazing can preclude musk deer from using such lands (Yang et al. 2003).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
It is unlikely that these shy deer have any negative impact on humans.
The musk glands of mature male Moschus have been of historic and current importance for use in soaps and perfumes. Males are hunted and trapped for musk, which, on the 1986 international market, was worth more than gold at U.S. $45,000 per kilogram. Musk has also been used as a component of traditional medicine in China, as a stimulant and as a sedative.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug
Black musk deer
M. fuscus is, in appearance, a small deer with long, thick hind legs in comparison to the front legs, and no antlers. The dusky musk deer has large and well developed ears and eyes. Males and females are similarly sized, between 70 and 100 cm in length and 10 and 15 kg in weight, and generally have thick brown hair. There is variation in color and vibrancy, which is evident in spotting. Upper canine teeth in males form sabers that can extend past the jaw, but not in females. Unlike most cervids, this creature possesses a gallbladder and does not have the same facial glands. Mature males have a musk gland between the naval and genitalia, and females have two mammae.
Black musk deer have mating periods beginning in late November into December, lasting roughly one month. They have a polygynous mating system, mating with more than one female at a time. Breeding typically occurs in November and December. During mating season, a male excretes scents from scent glands to indicate his territory (
Gestation lasts roughly six months, ending in parturition, which normally occurs during June or July. Typically, females give birth to one or two young. The newborns weigh about 500 g, and have spots. The young are cared for by their mother after birth for several months, until weaning occurs. This process generally takes between three and four months. At six months, the young have typically reached full adult size. Sexual maturity, however, does not occur until roughly 18 months.
Not much is known about black musk deer parental care. Females are generally the main caretakers, as they watch their young for roughly 3 to 4 months. Typically, the young travel with their mothers throughout this period, during which the mother defends and grooms her young. The role of the father in parental care is currently unknown.
All animals have a certain position on the food web. Even the black musk deer, although only endangered, its lack of species numbers has a detrimental effect on the environment in which it lives and the food web in which it participates. They are believed to have an impact on the vegetation because they consume mostly grass and other plants. Because they are hunted by humans and other animals such as the wolverine, lynx, and yellow-throated marten, their numbers have been greatly reduced, so they are now on the endangered species list. With fewer black musk deer around, it has become more difficult for these predators to find food, greatly affecting the food web.
The musk glands of the full-grown males have been collected for use in soaps and perfumes. The deer are hunted by people and companies looking to make money. At one point in the 1980s, the musk of the adult male deer was worth more than gold. Because of its high demand in the soap and perfume market, the price of the musk was very high. Another reason the deer are hunted is due to the belief that the musk of the deer has medicinal purposes. By tradition, they use it as a sedative and a stimulant.
Due to excessive hunting, it has been since placed on the endangered list. Another issue associated with the loss of the deer is habitat loss from deforestation. Not much is being done to save the deer from possible extinction.
The black musk deer is nocturnal, and most of their activities take place at night, dawn and dusk. This species is highly solitary. An individual of this species is not likely to live with any other deer, although they have been known to let other females “babysit” their young. Territoriality is also another salient feature, especially for males.
Living in the mountainous areas that have gorges and forests, these agile deer possess the ability to climb trees and move freely even at the dangerous edge of a cliff or in the very thick bushes.
They are more ferocious than other members in the Moschidae family, especially in the case of males fighting for mates. In addition to low growls, these deers may attack their opponents with their tusks and strong fore hooves. Black musk deer are also considerably vigilant. They do not return to the site where they are frightened or attacked before, even it is in a previously established “safe” territory.
The black musk deer has a number of predators; the lynx and the wolverine are two common predators. For example, some studies show that up to 43% of the diet of some lynx may consist of black musk deer. Humans prey on the deer more than all of their natural predators combined. They are caught and killed mainly for their musk glands, which are used as a base for perfumes. Ethical concerns have led to the use of synthetic musk, but this has not prevented the black musk deer from being included on the endangered list.
- Wang, Y. & Harris, R.B. (2008). Moschus fuscus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 29 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of endangered.
- Hoptner et al., V (1988). Mammals of the Soviet Union: V1 Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla. Smithsonian Institution Libraries and The National Science Foundation.
- Nowak, Ronad M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World (6th ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Wilson, Don E. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Geng, Shusheng; Shila Ma (2000). "Decline of musk deer in China and prospects for management". Environmental Conservation 27 (4): 323–325. doi:10.1017/s0376892900000369.
- Yang, Qisen; Xiuxiang Meng et al. (2003). "Conservation status and causes of decline of musk deer (Moschus spp.)". Biological Conservation 109 (3): 333–342. doi:10.1016/s0006-3207(02)00159-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Moschus fuscus.|
EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!