The CHITAL (/tʃɪtl/ ) or CHEETAL (Axis axis), also known as
SPOTTED DEER or AXIS DEER, is a species of deer that is native in the
* 1 Word History * 2 Taxonomy and phylogeny * 3 Description
* 4 Ecology and behaviour
* 4.1 Diet * 4.2 Reproduction
* 5 Habitat and distribution
The scientific name of the chital is Axis axis. "Axis" has several possible origins: the Greek axōn, the Lithuanian ašis, or the Sanskrit akṣaḥ. The vernacular name chital /ˈtʃiːtəl/ is derived from the Hindi cītal or from the Sanskrit citrala, both of which mean "variegated", in reference to the spotted coat of the deer . Another possible origin is from the Sanskrit citra which means "bright" or "spotted". The name of the cheetah has a similar origin. Other names for the chital are cheetal, cheetul, Indian spotted deer or simply the spotted deer, and axis deer.
TAXONOMY AND PHYLOGENY
The chital is the sole member of the genus Axis and is classified
under the family
The species is considered monotypic . A 1951 paper identified two subspecies of the chital: A. a. axis and A. a. ceylonensis (Sri Lankan axis deer ). The validity of these, however, is disputed.
The chital is a moderately sized deer. Males reach nearly 90 centimetres (35 in) and females 70 centimetres (28 in) at the shoulder; the head-and-body length is around 1.7 metres (5.6 ft). While males weigh 30–75 kilograms (66–165 lb), the lighter females weigh 25–45 kilograms (55–99 lb). Exceptionally large males can weigh up to 98 to 110 kg (216 to 243 lb). The tail, 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long, is marked by a dark stripe that stretches along its length. The species is sexually dimorphic : males are larger than females, and antlers are present only on males.
The dorsal (upper) parts are golden to rufous, completely covered in white spots. The abdomen, rump , throat, insides of legs, ears and tail are all white. A conspicuous black stripe runs along the spine (back bone). Chital have well-developed preorbital glands (near the eyes) which have stiff hairs. They also have well-developed metatarsal glands and pedal glands located in their hind legs. The preorbital glands, larger in males than in females, are frequently opened in response to certain stimuli. Chital at Sunderban.
Each of the antlers has three lines on it. The brow tine (the first division in the antler) is roughly perpendicular to the beam (the central stalk of the antler). The antlers, three-pronged, are nearly 1 metre (3.3 ft) long. Antlers, as in most other cervids, are shed annually. The antlers emerge as soft tissues (known as velvet antlers) and progressively harden into bony structures (known as hard antlers), following mineralisation and blockage of blood vessels in the tissue, from the tip to the base. A study of the mineral composition of the antlers of captive barasinga, chital and hog deer showed that the horns of the deer are very similar. The mineral content of the chital's horns was determined to be (in milligram and ounce per kilogram): 6.1 milligrams (0.00022 oz) copper, 8.04 milligrams (0.000284 oz) cobalt and 32.14 milligrams (0.001134 oz) zinc.
Hooves measure between 4.1 and 6.1 centimetres (1.6 and 2.4 in) in length; hooves of the forelegs are longer than those of the hindlegs. The toes taper to a point. The dental formula is 0.1.3.33.1.3.3, same as the elk . The milk canine , nearly 1 centimetre (0.39 in) long, falls off before one year of age, but is not replaced by a permanent tooth as in other cervids.
Compared to the hog deer, the chital has a more cursorial build. The antlers and brow tines are longer than those in the hog deer. The pedicles (the bony cores from which antlers arise) are shorter and the auditory bullae are smaller in the chital. The chital may be confused with the fallow deer . The chital is darker and has several white spots, whereas the fallow deer has white splotches. The chital has a prominent white patch on its throat, while the throat of the fallow deer is completely white. The hairs are smooth and flexible.
ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOUR
A resting herd of chital
Chital are active throughout the day. In the summer, time is spent in
rest under shade and the sun's glare is avoided if the temperature
reaches 80 °F (27 °C); activity peaks as dusk approaches. As days
grow cooler, foraging begins before sunrise and peaks by early
morning. Activity slows down during midday, when the animals rest or
loiter about slowly. Foraging recommences by late afternoon and
continues till midnight. They fall asleep a few hours before sunrise,
typically in the forest which is cooler than the glades. These deer
typically move in a single file on specific tracks, with a distance of
two to three times their width between them, when on a journey,
typically in search of food and water sources. A study in the Gir
National Park (
A gregarious animal, the chital forms matriarchal herds comprising an
adult female and her offspring of the previous and the present year,
which may be associated with individuals of any age and either sex,
male herds and herds of juveniles and mothers. Small herds are
common, though aggregations of as many as 100 individuals have been
observed. Groups are loose and disband frequently, save for the
juvenile-mother herd. Herd membership in
A vocal animal, the chital, akin to the North American elk , gives out bellows and alarm barks. Its calls are, however, not as strong as those of elk or red deer ; they are mainly coarse bellows or loud growls. Bellowing coincides with rutting. Dominant males guarding females in oestrus make high-pitched growls at less powerful males. Males may moan during aggressive displays or while resting. The chital, mainly females and juveniles, will bark persistently when alarmed or if they encounter a predator. Fawns in search of their mother often squeal. The chital can respond to the alarm calls of several animals such as the common myna and langurs . The posture when males try to mark branches or forage
Marking behaviour is pronounced in males. Males have well-developed preorbital glands (near the eyes). They stand on their hindlegs to reach tall branches and rub the open preorbital glands to deposit their scent there. This posture is also used while foraging. Urine-marking is also observed; the smell of urine is typically stronger than that of the deposited scent. Sparring between males begins with the larger male displaying his dominance before the other-this display consists of hissing heading away from the other male with the tail facing him, the nose pointing to the ground, the ears down, the antlers upright and the upper lip raised. The fur often bristles during the display. The male approaches the other in a slow gait. Males with velvet antlers may hunch over instead of standing erect as the males with hard antlers. The opponents then interlock their horns and push against each other, with the smaller male producing a sound at times which is louder than that produced by sambar deer but not as much as the barasinga's. The fight terminates with the males stepping backward, or simply leaving and foraging. Fights are not generally serious. Individuals may occasionally bite one another. Sparring between males
Common myna are often attracted to the chital. An interesting relationship has been observed between herds of chital and troops of the northern plains gray langurs , a widespread South Asian monkey. Chital benefit from the langurs' eyesight and ability to post a lookout from trees, while the langur benefit from the chital's strong sense of smell-both of which help keep a check on potential danger. The chital also benefit from fruits dropped by langurs from trees such as Terminalia bellerica and Phyllanthus emblica . The chital has been observed foraging with sambar deer in the Western Ghats.
Chital graze when grasses are available, else they browse.
Grazers as well as browsers , the chital mainly feed on grasses
throughout the year. They prefer young shoots, in the absence of whose
tall and coarse grasses will be nibbled off at the tips. Browse forms
a major portion of the diet only in the winter months-October to
January-when the grasses, tall or dried up, are no more palatable.
Browse includes herbs, shrubs, foliage, fruits and forbs ; Moghania
species are often preferred while browsing. Fruits eaten by chital in
Kanha National Park (
Madhya Pradesh , India) include those of
Mother with her fawn
Sexual maturity is reached within Breeding takes place throughout the year, with peaks that vary geographically. Sperms are produced year-round, though testosterone levels register a fall during the development of the antlers. Females have regular oestrus cycles, each lasting three weeks. The female can conceive again two weeks to four months after the birth. Males sporting hard antlers are dominant over those in velvet or those without antlers, irrespective of their size. Courtship is based on tending bonds. A rutting male fasts during the mating season and follow and guard a female in oestrus. The pair will do several bouts of chasing and mutual licking before copulation.
The newborn is hidden for a week after birth, a period much shorter than most other deer. The mother-fawn bond is not very strong, as the two get separated often, though they can reunite easily as the herds are cohesive. If the fawn dies, the mother can breed once again so as to give birth twice that year. The males continue their growth till seven to eight years. The average lifespan in captivity is nearly 22 years. The longevity in the wild, however, is merely five to ten years.
The chital is found in large numbers in dense deciduous or semievergreen forests and open grasslands. The highest numbers of chital are found in the forests of India, where they feed upon tall grass and shrubs. Chital have been also spotted in Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan, which has the only remaining natural sal (Shorea robusta ) forest in the country. They do not occur at high altitudes, where they are usually replaced by other species such as the sambar deer. They also prefer heavy forest cover for shade and avoid direct sunlight.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
The chital ranges over 8–30ºN in
The chital was the first species of deer introduced into
THE UNITED STATES
In the 1860s, axis deer were introduced to the island of
It was planned to release them on
In 1932, axis deer were introduced to
Chital of unknown genetic origin were introduced to
Brijuni Island in
1911, where they still occur today. They can also be found on Rab
Island , and the population on the two island amounts to some 200
individuals. Attempts by hunters to introduce the species to the
The chital is listed by the
The chital has been introduced to
Spotted deer near
Kanha National Park,
A young chital hiding behind its mother *
Herd grazing while one (on left) keeps watch at Sudarnakhali,
Spotted deer in Jaipur zoo *
Chital at Lindenthaler Tierpark, Germany *
Herd of chital does at Ranthambore National park *
A pair of chital at Ranthambore National park *
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J Duckworth, J.W.; Kumar, N.S.; Anwarul
Islam, M.; Sagar Baral, H.; Timmins, R. (2015). "Axis axis".
* ^ Groves, C.; Grubb, P. (1982). "Relationships of living deer".
Biology and management of the Cervidae: a conference held at the
Conservation and Research Center, National Zoological Park,
Smithsonian Institution, Front Royal, Virginia, 1–5 August 1982:
* ^ Müller-Schwarze, D. (1982). "Evolution of cervid olfactory
communication". Biology and management of the Cervidae: a conference
held at the Conservation and Research Center, National Zoological
Park, Smithsonian Institution, Front Royal, Virginia, 1–5 August
* ^ A B C D Ables, E.D. (1984). The Axis
* ^ A B Srinivasulu, C. (2001). "
Chital (Axis axis Erxleben, 1777)
herd composition and sex ratio on the
Nallamala Hills of Eastern
Ghats, Andhra Pradesh, India" (PDF). Zoos' Print Journal. 16: 655–8.
doi :10.11609/jott.zpj.16.12.655-8 .
* ^ Mishra, H. and Wemmer, C. 1987. "The comparative breeding
ecology of four cervids in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal".
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
* ^ Prasad, S.; Chellam, R.; Krishnaswamy, J.; Goyal, S.P. (2004).
Phyllanthus emblica at Rajaji National Park, northwest
India" (PDF). Current Science. 87 (9): 1188–90.
* ^ Newton, P.N. (1989). "Associations between langur monkeys
(Presbytis entellus) and chital deer (Axis axis): Chance encounters or
a mutualism?". Ethology. 83 (2): 89–120. doi
* ^ Grubb, P. 2005. Artiodactyla. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder
* Media related to Axis axis at Wikimedia Commons * Data