Mouse deer, also known as a chevrotain, refers to small and hoofed mammals native to Southeast Asia, Africa and India. However, this very term mouse deer can mean any of the ten species of similar animals. Vegetarian by nature, these animals are generally active at night or in the evening. They prefer to remain solitary and are shy animals. They have a characteristic gait as they walk on the tip of the hoofs of their slender legs. They are covered in fur of reddish-brown colour and have spots or stripes on the fur in either white or other pale colours. They are the smallest hoofed mammal in the world.
This article will discuss Mouse Deer in the context of the UPSC IAS Exam.
Characteristics of Mouse Deer
- The Asian mouse deer weighs 0.7 to 8.0 Kg, while the African species of the same animal weighs around 7-16 Kg. Chevrotains found in Java are about 45 cm in length and 30 cm in height, making them the smallest living hoofed mammal with even toes.
- Mouse deer have four chambers in their stomachs, and it acts as the stomach of other ruminants do. The rumen is the largest chamber. Plant foods, even the tough ones, are fermented in their stomachs. However, the third chamber out of the four is not developed as well as the others.
- No member of this species has any antler or horns.
- Both male and female mouse deer have elongated canine teeth and are placed on the upper jaw. It is more prominently present in males who use these teeth during fighting with an enemy or a competitor.
- They have four toes on each foot. The legs are thin, short and slender. This particular feature of legs makes them less agile, but at the same time helps them in using the short structure to run through dense foliage.
- Mouse deer live in pairs or live solitarily. The young mouse deer are fed on mother’s milk for three months, and then onwards, they eat plants. However, parental care for the young ones is quite limited.
Mouse Deer India – Physical Features and Habits
Indian spotted chevrotain is a species of mouse deer native to India and Nepal only. It is a nocturnal animal and mostly dwells in the rainforests. This particular species is around 57 cm long and has a small tail of about 2.5 cm in length. This small ungulate is even-toed and weighs not more than 3-3.5 Kg. Some characteristics of this species include:
- Mouse deer are born with dotted stripes on their body.
- During the daytime, they hide in tree hollows or dense foliage so that they can protect themselves from predators.
- They eat tender leaves, fungi, insects, tubers, fallen fruits etc. Though mostly vegetarian, Indian mouse deer often eat crustaceans or other animal matters.
Habitat of Mouse Deer
- Peninsular India is home to the mouse deer. This vast region includes the Terai region, Western and Eastern Ghats, Central India, and Deccan. In Nepal, the southern part is the common habitat of this species of chevrotain.
- The mouse deer mostly prefer deciduous forests, evergreen or semi-evergreen forests. They are also commonly found in forests or plantations that have dense undergrowth.
- Mouse deer prefer to stay near the water, and sometimes they spend hours being submerged in water. This is, possibly, to hide from predators.
Interesting facts about Mouse Deer
A particular species of mouse deer, the Vietnam mouse deer, was supposedly a lost species and was last seen in 1989-90. After thirty years, in 2019, the same species was again found on the camera. Mouse deer prefer a reclusive life. This is why they are not spotted regularly.
This animal lives for around 8-12 years. They become sexually mature as they reach the age of 5 months. But, this might vary from one species to another. Some reach sexual maturity at ten months of age.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who are the predators of mouse deer?
Monitor lizards, wild cats, dholes, jackals, dholes and pythons are the predators of mouse deer on land. As for birds, eagles are also their predators.
What family and species do mouse deer belong to?
Mouse deer belong to the family Tragulidae. Indian spotted mouse deer are of the genus Moschiola.
How do mouse deer communicate?
Mouse deer communicate through vocalisation. During mating, they also use scent marks as their mode of communication.