Ecological separation in Himalayan ungulates


  • *IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre, 219(c) Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 ODL.


There is considerable overlap between the altitudinal distribution of Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), sambar (Cervus unicolor), serow (Capricornis sumatraensis) and goral (Nemorhaedus gorai) in the Kedarnath Sanctuary of Uttar Pradesh, North India. Limited comparative data suggest that these species are similar with respect to their predominantly solitary behaviour, nocturnal and diurnal pattern of activity and preference for cover provided by trees or shrubs. Evidence from faecal analysis indicates that the species differ in their feeding habits: both musk deer and serow are browsers, the goral is a grazer and the sambar is an intermediate feeder. High levels of competition between species are avoided owing to an inverse relationship between overlap in habitat use and overlap in diet. The musk deer, for example, is most similar to goral in its use of cover but very different in its feeding habits. Although dietary overlap between musk deer and goral is greatest in winter, when food resources are in shortest supply, potential competition between the species is avoided by a reduction in overlap in their use of cover. Unlike musk deer, goral experience great difficulty in travelling in deep powdery snow. Consequently, the goral's greater use of cover in winter, accompanied by its shift to lower altitudes, may be to reduce risks of predation rather than directly to avoid competition for food or other resources.