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Chital
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Axis
Species: A. axis
Binomial name
Axis axis
(Erxleben, 1777)

The chital or cheetal (Axis axis)[2], also known as chital deer, spotted deer or axis deer is a deer which commonly inhabits wooded regions of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and India. They are found in small numbers in Pakistan as well. It is the most common deer species in Indian forests. Its coat is reddish fawn, marked with white spots, and its underparts are white. Its antlers, which it sheds annually, are usually three-pronged and curve in a lyre shape and may extend to 75 cm (2.5 ft). It stands about 90 cm (3 ft) tall at the shoulder and masses about 85 kg (187 lb). It's lifespan is around 20-30 years.

Contents

Habitat

Herd of Axis deer in the wild

The spotted deer are found in large numbers in dense deciduous/semi-evergreen jungles and open grasslands. The highest numbers of Chital are found in the jungles of India. Chital feed upon tall grass and shrubs and hence they occur in such jungles. Chital are a tiger's favourite prey and hence they live in jungles where they get plenty of shade and tall trees so that the tiger can easily camouflage.

Ecology and lifestyle

Chital buck at Mudumalai National Park

Axis deer most commonly occur in herds of ten to fifty individuals, with one or two stags and a number of females and young. They are often fairly tolerant of approach by humans and vehicles, especially where they are accustomed to human disturbance. They do not occur at higher elevation forests where they are usually replaced by other species such as the Sambar deer. Axis deer eat primarily grasses and vegetation, but also eat their shed antlers as a source of nutrients.

The chital has a protracted breeding season due in part to the tropical climate, and births can occur throughout the year. For this reason, males do not have their antler cycles in synchrony and there are some fertile females at all times of the year. Males sporting hard antlers are dominant over those in velvet or those without antlers, irrespective of their size and other factors.

Interspecies interaction

Axis deer grazing.

An interesting relationship has been observed between herds of axis deer and troops of the Northern Plains Gray Langur (Presbytis entellus), a widespread leaf-eating monkey taxon of South Asia. Axis deer apparently benefit from the langurs' good eyesight and ability to post a lookout in a treetop, helping to raise the alarm when a predator approaches. For the langurs' part, the axis deer's superior sense of smell would seem to assist in early predator warning, and it is common to see langurs foraging on the ground in the presence of axis deer. The axis deer also benefit from fruits dropped by the langurs from trees such as Terminalia bellerica and Phyllanthus emblica.[3] Alarm calls of either species can be indicative of the presence of a predator such as a tiger.[citation needed]

Miscellaneous

The Chital is called Jinke in Kannada, Pulli Maan in Tamil, Duppi in Telugu, Phutuki Horin in Assamese and Hiran in Hindi/Urdu (ultimately derived from Harini, the Sanskrit root word for 'deer'). It has been introduced to Queensland, Australia, Uruguay, Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco, California, Texas and Florida as well as Hawaii in the United States.

It is hunted for sport and its meat and hide in the United States. Axis meat is 99.8% fat free - making it the leanest meat of any mammal. The taste of the meat is very close to good beef.

See also

References

  1. ^ Duckworth, J.W., Kumar, N.S., Anwarul Islam, Md., Hem Sagar Baral & Timmins, R.J. (2008). Axis axis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 8 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ Grubb, Peter (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=14200344. 
  3. ^ Prasad, S.; R. Chellam; J. Krishaswamy & S. P. Goyal (2004) Frugivory of Phyllanthus emblica at Rajaji National Park, northwest India. Current Science 87(9):1188-1190 pdf

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