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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Musk deer
Temporal range: Early Oligocene–recent
Moschustier.jpg
Siberian musk deer
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Moschidae
Gray, 1821
Genus: Moschus
Linnaeus, 1758
Species

Musk deer (Sanskrit: कस्तूरी मृग, and Hindi: कस्तूरी हिरन) can refer to any one, or all seven, of the species that make up Moschus, the only extant genus of the family Moschidae.[1] The musk deer family differs from cervids, or true deer, by lacking antlers and facial glands and by possessing only a single pair of teats, a gallbladder, a caudal gland, a pair of tusk-like teeth and—of particular economic importance to humans—a musk gland.

Musk deer live mainly in forested and alpine scrub habitats in the mountains of southern Asia, notably the Himalayas. Moschids, the proper term when referring to this type of deer rather than one/multiple species of musk deer, are entirely Asian in their present distribution, being extinct in Europe where the earliest musk deer are known to have existed from Oligocene deposits.

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Transcription

Prized since ancient times for its alluring fragrance, today musk can mean any of a number of substances used to scent perfumes. However, while in our modern era most musk is synthetically produced, when it first came on the scene, musk was only found in a scrotum-like sac on the bellies of male musk deer. Musk deer are found throughout Asia, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Siberia. Small, the largest barely reach 2 feet in height and weigh no more than 40 pounds. The male of the species has a scent gland sometimes called the musk pod that sits between its belly button and genitalia. Resembling jiggly bits, early on the Sanskrit speakers who started harvesting the gland used their word for testicle, muska-s, to refer to both the gland and its product. The first use for musk was in Auyervedic medicines, the preparation of which required the gland first be dried and then ground. At this point, it is said to have a sharp, repulsive, animal smell with “ammonia accents that resemble urine and castoreum.” Eventually, however, it was learned that by heavily diluting the stinky powder in alcohol, the bestial smell disappeared, which likely made the medicine much more palatable. In addition to removing the animal stink, the dilution also revealed an underlying pleasant, complex aroma. Making its way through ancient civilizations, deer musk became highly prized and very expensive. By the dawn of the 19th century, pound for pound, it cost more than twice that of gold. Later, as cheaper, synthetic substitutes became available, they were likewise called musk. Today, musk is still harvested from musk deer, and while the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) regulates their harvest, poaching remains a problem. Other animal sources of that musky smell include civet cats, sperm whales and beavers. For instance, secretions from beavers’ castor sacks located next to their anal glands have a musky/vanilla scent. This substance, called castoreum, is commonly used in various perfumes, in some cases used to create the “new car smell,” and used in many foods as “natural flavoring,” in substitute for vanilla. Certain non-dairy creamers are just one of many foods that sometimes contain castoreum. Yum! Another common musky additive to high end perfumes is Ambergris. This begins as a large, compacted mass of the indigestible parts of a squid and other gross stuff in the intestines of a sperm whale. No one knows for sure how it emerges from that dark, stinky interior, although the most obvious explanation, poop, is the most popular. Floating on the ocean until it washes up on shore, the best ambergris spends years oxidizing from a combination of salt, air and sun. Prized for its unique scent, ambergris is in high demand by perfume manufacturers and the amorous alike. In fact, high quality ambergris can sell for $20 per gram (about $9,000 per pound). As you can imagine, there is a thriving industry in ambergris hunting, and the competition can be fierce. Luckily, there are other sources of musk available, including plants like the Abelmoschus moschatus and Amgelica archangelica, as well as several chemical compounds including aromatic nitro musks, polycyclic musks and macrocyclic musk. Some people lack sufficient amounts of an enzyme, flavin monooxygenase 3 (FMO3), such that they cannot digest choline or convert trimethylamine (an organic compound) found in lots of common foods including red meat, egg yolks, beans and fish. As a result, the compound, which smells strongly of fish or B.O., accumulates in their bodies and is released in their sweat. As you can imagine, this can be a socially debilitating condition. Other conditions can also be diagnosed by smell. Schizophrenics are said to sometimes sweat out more trans-3-methyl hexenoic acid, which gives them a super sweet smell, like over-ripened fruit. Diphtheria is also said to have a sweet smell, while typhoid is known to smell like bread baking, and TB sometimes smells like beer. On the other hand, those with asthma and cystic fibrosis can be diagnosed by the smell of their breath, which is said to be a bit acidic. Liver and kidney diseases can make the breath smell of fish, and untreated diabetes can make it smell like rotten apples. There’s even a condition named after maple syrup where people can’t break down leucine, isoleucine and valine (all amino acids). While on the up side, their pee smells like breakfast, on the down side, in the most severest forms the condition can cause intellectual disability and even brain damage.

Contents

Characteristics

Skull of a buck showing the trademark teeth
Skull of a buck showing the trademark teeth
Skeleton of Micromeryx showing the general skeletal features
Skeleton of Micromeryx showing the general skeletal features

Musk deer resemble small deer with a stocky build, and hind legs longer than their front legs. They are about 80 to 100 cm (31 to 39 in) long, 50 to 70 cm (20 to 28 in) high at the shoulder, and weigh between 7 and 17 kg (15 and 37 lb). The feet of musk deer are adapted for climbing in rough terrain. Like the Chinese water deer, a cervid, they have no antlers, but the males do have enlarged upper canines, forming sabre-like tusks. The dental formula is similar to that of true deer: 0.1.3.33.1.3.3

The musk gland is found only in adult males. It lies in a sac located between the genitals and the umbilicus, and its secretions are most likely used to attract mates.

Musk deer are herbivores, living in hilly, forested environments, generally far from human habitation. Like true deer, they eat mainly leaves, flowers, and grasses, with some mosses and lichens. They are solitary animals, and maintain well-defined territories, which they scent mark with their caudal glands. Musk deer are generally shy, and either nocturnal, or crepuscular.

Males leave their territories during the rutting season, and compete for mates, using their tusks as weapons. Female musk deer give birth to a single fawn after about 150–180 days. The newborn young are very small, and essentially motionless for the first month of their lives, a feature that helps them remain hidden from predators.[2]

Musk deer have been hunted for their scent glands, which are commonly used in perfumes. The glands can fetch up to $45,000/kg on the black market. It is rumored that ancient royalty wore the scent of the musk deer and that it is an aphrodisiac.[3]

Evolution

Reconstruction of the extinct American species Blastomeryx gemmifer
Reconstruction of the extinct American species Blastomeryx gemmifer
Reconstruction of the extinct genus Micromeryx
Reconstruction of the extinct genus Micromeryx

Musk deer may be a surviving representative of the Palaeomerycidae, a family of ruminants that is probably ancestral to deer.[citation needed] They originated in the early Oligocene epoch and disappeared in the Pliocene.[citation needed] Most species lacked antlers, though some were found in later species. The musk deer are, however, still placed in a separate family.

Taxonomy

While they have been traditionally classified as members of the deer family (as the subfamily "Moschinae") and all the species were classified as one species (under Moschus moschiferus), recent studies have indicated that moschids are more closely related to bovids (antelope, goat-antelope and wild cattle).[4] The following taxonomy is after Prothero (2007)[5]

Moschidae

  • Hydropotopsis
    • Hydropotopsis lemanensis
  • Hispanomeryx
    • Hispanomeryx aragonensis
    • Hispanomeryx daamsi
    • Hispanomeryx duriensis
    • Hispanomeryx andrewsi
  • Oriomeryx
    • Oriomeryx major
    • Oriomeryx willii
  • Friburgomeryx
    • Friburgomeryx wallenriedensis
  • Bedenomeryx
    • Bedenomeryx truyolsi
    • Bedenomeryx milloquensis
    • Bedenomeryx paulhiacensis
  • Dremotheriinae
    • Pomelomeryx
      • Pomelomeryx boulangeri
      • Pomelomeryx gracilis
    • Dremotherium
      • Dremotherium cetinensis
      • Dremotherium guthi
      • Dremotherium quercyi
      • Dremotherium feignouxi
  • Blastomerycinae
    • Pseudoblastomeryx
      • Pseudoblastomeryx advena
    • Machaeromeryx
      • Machaeromeryx tragulus
    • Longirostromeryx
      • Longirostromeryx clarendonensis
      • Longirostromeryx wellsi
    • Problastomeryx
      • Problastomeryx primus
    • Parablastomeryx
      • Parablastomeryx floridanus
      • Parablastomeryx gregorii
    • Blastomeryx
      • Blastomeryx gemmifer
  • Moschinae

References

  1. ^ "Moschus (musk deer) Classification". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
  2. ^ Frädrich H (1984). "Deer". In Macdonald D. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 518–9. ISBN 978-0-87196-871-5.
  3. ^ Wild Russia, Discovery Channel
  4. ^ Hassanin A, Douzery EJ (April 2003). "Molecular and morphological phylogenies of ruminantia and the alternative position of the moschidae". Systematic Biology. 52 (2): 206–28. doi:10.1080/10635150390192726. PMID 12746147.
  5. ^ Prothero DR (November 2007). Evolution: what the fossils say and why it matters. Columbia University Press. pp. 221–226.
  6. ^ Aiglstorfer M, Costeur L, Mennecart B, Heizmann EP (2017). "Micromeryx? eiselei-A new moschid species from Steinheim am Albuch, Germany, and the first comprehensive description of moschid cranial material from the Miocene of Central Europe". PLOS ONE. 12 (10): e0185679. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0185679. PMC 5642927. PMID 29036194.

Further reading

This page was last edited on 3 March 2019, at 15:28
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