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Scent-marking in the Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster)
Article first published online: 8 AUG 2013
1987 The Zoological Society of London
Journal of Zoology
Volume 1, Issue 4, pages 721–737, March 1987
How to Cite
Green, M. J. B. (1987), Scent-marking in the Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster). Journal of Zoology, 1: 721–737. doi: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.1987.tb00752.x
- Issue published online: 8 AUG 2013
- Article first published online: 8 AUG 2013
- Accepted 22 April 1986
In view of its solitary behaviour and need for dense cover, the musk deer probably relies chiefly on olfaction for communication. The various forms of scent-marking behaviour include defaecation at latrines by both sexes and, in the case of males, the secretion of musk and pasting with the caudal gland.
The use of 120 latrines was monitored for periods of up to 27 months in the Kedarnath Sanctuary, North India. Latrines occurred throughout animals' ranges and were used most frequently during the autumn rut. There is limited evidence that in summer musk deer defaecated wherever they happened to be rather than at latrines, which were seldom used at this time of year. That latrines are regularly used for purposes of marking, rather than to orientate animals, is strongly supported by the musk deer's ability accurately to locate snow-covered sites. Droppings were sometimes covered with debris, more often in autumn than in other seasons. The covering of droppings appears to be a characteristic of adults and probably helps to keep the pellets moist and smelly. It is suggested that some latrines were used exclusively by one animal whereas others were used by more than one animal. The extent to which latrines appear to have been shared corresponds with the degree of overlap between animals' ranges.
There is some evidence that musk, which is synthesized before the rut, is conveyed in the urine of males. Snow stained with urine from males usually had a sweet scent and was pink or red, whereas that stained with urine from females never had a noticeable scent and was always amber in colour.
Likely constraints influencing the spatial pattern of scent-marking are considered. The paper concludes with a discussion of the role of scent-marking in the musk deer.