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Brief Summary

    Hairy-fronted muntjac: Brief Summary
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    The hairy-fronted muntjac or black muntjac (Muntiacus crinifrons) is a type of deer currently found in Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangxi and Fujian in southeastern China. It is considered to be endangered, possibly down to as few as 5–10,000 individuals spread over a wide area. Reports of hairy-fronted muntjacs from Burma result from considering the hairy-fronted muntjac and Gongshan muntjac as the same species. This suggestion is controversial. It is similar in size to the common muntjac.

    Hairy-fronted muntjacs are extremely difficult to study because of their shyness. Camera-trap photographs have revealed the presence of hairy-fronted muntjacs where they were believed not to have existed for decades, for example in the Wuyanling National Nature Reserve.

    This species was for a very long time one of the most poorly known deer in the world. It was also considered highly endangered; up to 1975, it was only known from a few museum specimens, at least to western scientists. The species has been heavily harvested throughout the 20th century and in 1978 at least 2,000 animals were killed. The current population in China was assessed in the early 1990s to be ca 10,000 animals however it has declined much since and the current population is likely to be well under 7,000.

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The documented geographic range of Muntiacus crinifrons includes the Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang provinces of eastern China as well as within the Hkakabo Razi National Park of northern Myanmar. Ohtaishi and Gao (1990) suggested that the range of M. crinifrons formerly extended from the mouth of the Yangtze River, through the southeastern provinces that border the South China Sea, and into Yunnan province. Fragmentation of the former distribution of M. crinifrons may have been caused by deforestation for logging and agricultural purposes.

    Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
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    One of the larger species of the genus Muntiacus, M. crinifrons can have a body mass as large as 28.5 kg, with females, on average, larger than males (24.1 kg and 23.1 kg, respectively). The pelage is mostly black to dark brown in color. The thick and long frontal tuft above and between the eyes is cinnamon red in color and often hides the long pedicles of the antlers. The tail is notably longer than in other species of Muntiacus (~21 cm) and is thickly tufted with white fur that extends onto the inner thighs. The ventral side is only slightly lighter in color compared to the dorsal side. During winter, the coat is much thicker and darker, but becomes thinner and lighter in color during the summer. Muntiacus crinifrons fawns have a coat similar to that seen in adults, except for the addition of four dorsal, subparallel, white spots.

    Like other members of the subfamily Cervinae, M. crinifrons retain enamel-covered upper canines, which are elongated into tusks in males. In M. crinifrons, only males bear short (20-60 cm), single-branched antlers on long, hair-covered pedicles (8-10 cm) that extend from the frontal bone. Annual shedding of the antlers is presumed to occur by many authors. However, Groves and Grubb (1990) raise the possibility that the antlers are not always shed, because of observed similarities in antler size and morphology between M. crinifrons and M. atherodes, a species in which the frontal cavity extends into the pedicle preventing the development of a burr.

    Range mass: 21.3 to 36.1 kg.

    Range length: 98 to 113 cm.

    Average length: 103.9-105.8 cm.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; ornamentation

Habitat

    Habitat
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    Muntiacus crinifrons inhabits hilly, often precipitous, mountain forests between 800-1000 m above sea level. These forests consist of a mosaic of deciduous broadleaf, evergreen, and bamboo patches with dense undergrowth and subtropical monsoonal conditions.

    Range elevation: 800 to 1000 m.

    Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

    Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
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    Some species of Muntiacus have been described as omnivorous. However, a study of the rumen contents of Muntiacus crinifrons showed that the diet consists of leaves, twigs, and fruit without any animal matter. The contents included woody shrubs and vines, fallen fruit, herbs and grasses, conifers, and bamboo leaves, in order of decreasing abundance.

    Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; fruit

    Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore )

Associations

    Associations
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    Muntiacus crinifrons is expected to be an ecological specialist due to its preference for a specific range of altitudes (800-1000 m). This is further supported by the exclusion of other deer species, who occupy similar habitats and altitudes elsewhere in China, from their ranges. Since this species has been found to eat fallen fruit, Muntiacus crinifrons may be important in seed dispersal. Beyond this, little is known about the ecological role of Muntiacus crinifrons.

    Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

    Associations
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    The main predators of Muntiacus crinifrons are humans and dholes. Leopards are also suspected to prey upon M. crinifrons, but cases of leopard predation have not been documented. Muntiacus crinifrons uses visual and sound cues (as described above) to inform a predator that it has been detected in order to dissuade the predator from attacking. Other species of Muntiacus quickly flee predators down well-maintained trails and hide in the dense undergrowth until the danger has passed. A similar behavior is expected of M. crinifrons.

    Known Predators:

    • humans (Homo sapiens)
    • dholes (Cuon alpinus)
    • leopards (Panthera pardus)

Behavior

    Behavior
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    As mentioned above, M. crinifrons scent marks with secretions from frontal and preorbital glands to demarcate territorial boundaries. Such scent marks may also indicate reproductive status. Visual cues, such as a raised frontal tuft or exposed white fur of the upturned tail, as well as barking, convey anxiety and may inform a predator or opponent that it has been spotted. Studies of reproductive behavior in Muntiacus reevesi report that males use low postures and "buzzing" noises during courtship, but such behavior in M. crinifrons has not been documented.

    Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical

    Other Communication Modes: scent marks

    Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    Observations: Little is known about the longevity of these animals, but one wild born specimen was still alive in captivity at about 12 years of age (Richard Weigl 2005).
    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The lifespan of Muntiacus crinifrons is not well known. Lu and Sheng (1984) report capturing a pregnant female of 11 years in age. This implies that M. crinifrons may have a lifespan similar to the 10-12 year lifespan estimated for Muntiacus reevesi.

    Range lifespan
    Status: wild:
    11 (high) years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
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    The details of the mating system is not known specifically for M. crinifrons. However, the behavior of M. reevesi is often used as a paradigm for other members of the genus. Males of that species demarcate and aggressively defend small territories exclusive of other males, these territories may overlap with those of several females.

    Mating System: polygynous

    Black muntjacs breed continually throughout the year without a distinct breeding season (polyestrous). Females may enter estrous before acquiring full body size. They bear only one fawn per pregnancy. In one study, some lactating females were found carrying fetuses, implying that post-partum estrus is possible in this species. The gestation period is not known for M. crinifrons, but in M. reevesi gestation lasts 209-220 days. The dappled coat of the fawn indicates that the young spend some time hidden in forest undergrowth until they are large enough to follow their mothers.

    Breeding interval: Females may give birth up to once a year.

    Breeding season: Breeding can occur throughout the year.

    Average number of offspring: 1.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous

    Little is known about the parental investment of Muntiacus crinifrons. However, in other species of Muntiacus, maturation progresses rapidly and females may simultaneously carry one young in utero while nursing another. Both observations imply relatively little postpartum parental investment by the mother.

    Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
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    The geographic range of Muntiacus crinifrons is presumed to have been much more extensive is southeast Asia in the past, but has recently been fragmented due to habitat loss. In China, habitat loss has been attributed to overexploitation of mountain forests for timber as well as forest clearing for agriculture and infrastructure development. Overhunting may also play a role in the declining numbers of M. crinifrons.

    During the early 1980's, the estimated population size of Muntiacus crinifrons in China was ~ 10,000 individuals. However, a 1989 estimate lowered the population size to between 5000-6000 individuals. The discovery of Muntiacus crinifrons in Myanmar suggests that the total population size may be closer to 12,000 individuals.

    US Federal List: no special status

    CITES: appendix i

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

Benefits

    Benefits
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    Muntiacus crinifrons inhabits mountainous areas with little or no human populations and have no negative impact on human economies.

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    In both China and Myanmar Muntiacus crinifrons is hunted and trapped for its meat and skin. Local people in Myanmar sell the skins and antlers to Chinese traders for essential items and amenities.

    Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material