Erakina

CHEVROTAIN -A living fossil -Erakina

Published Date : December 3, 2021

Chevrotain is a mouse deer which belongs to the family of tragulidae.  They are the smallest deer species on the earth and endemic to southeast Asia , India , parts of africa. A mouse deer weighs around 4 to 33 pounds.  They are in a shade of brown on the upper part of the body and below. They have white stripes and spots. A mouse deer resembles a pig with pencil thin legs and stock bodies. Even though they aren’t a type of deer, they are called mouse deer because they are as tiny as mice and ruminate.  They don’t have either antillers or horns.

A mouse deer leaning to other mouse deer.
Two mouse deers with pointy nose, wide eyes and pencil legs.

Fossils of these creatures are from the miocene which make them a living fossil and most ancient ruminates of early animals. These mouse deers are a combination of primitive and derivative traits.

Today’s chevrotains have their roots in early tragulidae that appeared in the eocene. They are also known as the evolutionary link between ruminants and non ruminants.

Family tree of chevrotain

There are 3 modern genus and 8 species of tragulidae. Recently, 2 former species of the genus ( T.napu & T.javaincy) are divided into 6 species.

Family tree of chevrotain which classification of species;
Different types of tragulidae (chevrotain)

Where do they live?

Mouse deers are very shy and timid animals. They are extremely solitary and nocturnal animals. They come out at nights to hunt their prey and hide in the mornings. They are found in dense vegetation, thick forests and also adapted to grasslands.

What do they eat?

They feed on grasses, leaves, fruits, and sometimes invertebrates and small mammals and sometimes on carrions. Their digestive systems are capable of digesting a wide range of food. Their stomach consists of 3 chambers unlike completely evolved larger  ruminants( they have 4 chambers). They have enzymes to break cellulose and silica also. 

How have these mouse deers adapted to their ever changing climates and habitats since the Miocene ?

  • Evolution of crescent shaped molar teeth with  efficiency to grind plants and leaves .
  • They can ruminate and has the enzymes to digest cellulose and silica
  • They have slipper shaped bodies  which can slip into burrows and support them to hide in small places.
A chevrotain with wide eyes and a fang.
A mouse deer with fangs and large eyes.  

To know more …

  • They are dimorphic sexually, males have larger and curved  canines than females.
  • They communicate through loud sounds, scents and other vocalizations.
  • They mark their home territories with scent, marks of urine ,feces or glandular secretions( aren’t they intelligent !).
  • Frightened mouse deer make soft bleating sounds. 
  • Chevrotains are mostly territorial. Except water chevrotain. Their speciality is to dive underwater and hunt the prey.
  • A mouse deer in water can hold its breath upto 4 minutes.  
  •  A chevrotain fangs are fiercer than draculas. (of course they are cutest with those fangs !)

Among the 12 deer found in India, mouse deer is the smallest deer and found in peninsular and coastal forests. They aren’t just shy and timid animals  but short slender legged even toed small pointy headed food for indigenous tribes in forests. Next time when you are visiting a national park or a wildlife sanctuary dont forget to look for these creatures!

-by CHANDANA.THURIMELLA

Content Writer (Erakina By RTMN)

23/11/2021

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