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Siberian musk deer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Siberian musk deer
Moschus moschiferus in Plzen zoo (12.02.2011).jpg
Moschus moschiferus
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Moschidae
Genus: Moschus
M. moschiferus
Binomial name
Moschus moschiferus
Moschus moschiferus map.png
Range of the Siberian musk deer

The Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) is a musk deer found in the mountain forests of Northeast Asia. It is most common in the taiga of southern Siberia, but is also found in parts of Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria and the Korean peninsula.

Their small shape allows them to hide from predators through tiny openings in the rocky terrain and also allow them to run exceptionally fast from their predators. Although bearing fangs, Siberian musk deer are actually herbivores with their main source of nutrients being lichens.[2]

Due to the severe amount of poaching for its musk gland, the deer population is continuing to decrease. It is expected that the population will be reduced to at least 30% over the next three generations. However, efforts from each sighted countries are beginning to reintroduce the musk deer's population.[3]

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  • ✪ About That Musk...
  • ✪ Musk-Deer 2 (Animal.Planet.Wild.Russia.3of6).mp4


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.



Siberia, North Mongolia, Russia, North China and Korea - M. m. moschiferus

Russian Far East - M. m. turovi

Verkhoyansk Ridge - M. m. arcticus

Sakhalin - M. m. sachalinensis

Korea - M. m. parvipes

Maturity and mating

It takes approximately a year for the Siberian musk deer to reach maturity with an average deer to live at least 10 – 14 years.

During breeding season, male deer will grow tusks instead of antlers.[2] These tusks are used to compete with other males and attract females. Tusks that are longer and stronger creates a more intimidating stance and becomes more attractive to females as the offspring of that male are likely to become healthier and fit.

Once the male and the female deer have procreated, the females will become pregnant lasting over 6 months and can give birth to 1-3 offspring, usually between the months of May through June.[4]


Musk will mark their territory warning trespassing deers not to cross the boundary. When marking their territories, musk deer gather fallen branches, tree trunks, as well as plant stems and place them in a circle. While placing the various branches around the circle, the deer will often do an olfactory examination and turn the back of its body towards the marked territories. Other ways the Siberian Musk Deer will mark its territory is by defecating in already marked territories or unclaimed territories.[5]

Habitat and diet

Most Siberian musk deer are generally nocturnal inhabiting the mountainous taiga and found in shrub-covered slopes where foods are abundant. The rocky location provides crevices and crags for the musk deer to hide from many predators, such as lynx and wolverines.

The lichen is the primary food source for the Siberian Musk Deer
The lichen is the primary food source for the Siberian Musk Deer

Musk deer have a preference for easily digestible nutritious foods that are both rich in protein and low in fiber. During periods of winter, musk deer can survive in even poorer food quality ranging in foods that are low in proteins but are high in energy and can be easily digested.[6]

The majority of their diet consists mostly of lichens, pine needles, leaves, and tree barks. During the winter, 99% of musk deer's diet are lichens. Siberian Musk deer have a preference for easily digestible nutritious foods.



It is largely nocturnal, and migrates only over short distances. It prefers altitudes of more than 2600 m. Adults are small, weighing 7–17 kg.

The Siberian musk deer is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. It is hunted for its musk gland, which fetches prices as high as $45,000 per kilogram. Only a few tens of grams can be extracted from an adult male. It is possible to remove the gland without killing the deer, but this is seldom done. In 2016, the Korean company Sooam Biotech was reported to be attempting to clone the Siberian musk deer to help conserve the species.[7]

The most striking characteristics of the Siberian musk deer are its tusks and kangaroo-like face. Males grow the teeth for display instead of antlers.[8]

A distinct subspecies roams the island of Sakhalin.

Population size and trends

World population: 230,000 Decrease Declining

  • Russian Federation, Sakhalin population: 600-500 Decrease Declining
  • Russian Federation, the Eastern Siberian population: 27,000-30,000 Decrease Declining
  • Russian Federation, Far Eastern population: 150,000 Decrease Declining
  • Mongolia: 44,000 Decrease Declining
  • China: unknown Decrease Declining
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea: unknown Decrease Declining
  • Republic of Korea: unknown Decrease Declining[9]

Musk chemical composition

Siberian musk deer preputial gland secretions are constituted of free fatty acids and phenols (10%), waxes (38%) and steroids. Cholestanol, cholesterol, androsterone, Δ4-3α-hydroxy-17-ketoandrostene, 5β,3α-hydroxy-17-ketoandrostane, 5α,3β,17α-dihydroxyandrostane, 5β,3α,17β-dihydroxyandrostane and 5β,3α,17α-dihydroxyandrostane can be isolated from the steroid fraction. 3-Methylpentadecanone (muscone) was not identified among the secretion lipids.[10]


The decline of the Siberian Musk Deer's population began in China where most of the deer population was abundant. Most notably in the Sichuan plains, the musk production was accounted for 80% of the domestic trade in the 1950s.[4] New sightings of musk deer was later spotted in the upper northeast Asia and Russia; these spotted places soon opened their own musk market. After the 1980s, the production begins to steadily decline due to hunting for their musk glands. Then the cycle of over-harvesting the deer's musk continued until the exploitation severely reduced the musk deer's population.

Another threat comes from the habitat loss by deforestation. For a long period, China cut more of its forest than they could replant. 200million cm3[4] of China's forest recourses were cut down in the past 25 years in order to harvest the timber stock in trade for commerce. Deforestation is a severe threat to the musk deer's long term survival because the deer can only live in a few areas.

Conservation action

The Siberian musk deer is considered vulnerable, but is slowly declining to endangerment. In Russia, the Siberian Musk Deer is protected as Very Rare under part 7.1 of the Law of the Mongolian Animal Kingdom (2000) and also under the 1995 Mongolian Hunting Law.[3] The musk deers are also protected under the National Parks which accounts for approximately 13% of the Siberian Musk Deer population.

In China, at the international level, trading musk is controlled through CITES. All trades regarding musk is permitted to strict regulation to avoid exploitation of the survival of the deer.[11]

Other efforts include

  • Breeding the musk deer in captivity farms in both Russia and China.
  • China has enacted many law and regulations to preserve rare animals and their habitats, many such as Wildlife Protection Law and the Forestry Law.
  • Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is working through the American government to urge the efforts of protecting the musk deer and many other endangered species’ population.


  1. ^ Nyambayar, B.; Mix, H. & Tsytsulina, K. (2008). "Moschus moschiferus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 29 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of vulnerable.
  2. ^ a b Fessenden, M. (2014). "Fanged deer not extinct, still roaming the mountains of Afghanistan".
  3. ^ a b c Nyambayar, B.; Mix, H.; Tsytsulina, K. (2015). "Moschus moschiferus (Siberian musk deer)". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Qi, W.-H., Li, J., Zhang, X.-Y., Wang, Z.-K., Li, X.-X., Yang, C.-Z., Fu, W. and Yue, B.-S. (2011) ‘The reproductive performance of female forest musk deer () in captivity’, Theriogenology, 76(5), pp. 874–881. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2011.04.018.
  5. ^ Maksimova, D. A., Seryodkin, I. V., Zaitsev, V. A., & Miquelle, D. G. (2014). Research program of musk deer ecology in the Sikhote-Alin region. Achievements in the Life Sciences, 8(1), 65–71. doi:10.1016/j.als.2014.11.005
  6. ^ Wang, W., Zhou, R., He, L., Liu, S., Zhou, J., Qi, L., Li, L. and Hu, D. (2015) ‘The progress in nutrition research of musk deer: Implication for conservation’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 172, pp. 1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.09.006
  7. ^ Zastrow, Mark (8 February 2016). "Inside the cloning factory that creates 500 new animals a day". New Scientist. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  8. ^ National Geographic Channel. Wild Russia. Siberia. (2009)
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2013-06-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Musk deer (Moschus moschiferus): Reinvestigation of main lipid components from preputial gland secretion. V. E. Sokolov, M. Z. Kagan, V. S. Vasilieva, V. I. Prihodko and E. P. Zinkevich, Journal of Chemical Ecology, January 1987, Volume 13, Issue 1, pages 71-83, doi:10.1007/BF01020352
  11. ^ Yang, Q., Meng, X., Xia, L. and Feng, Z. (2002) Conservation status and causes of decline of musk deer (Moschus spp.) in china. Available at: "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2016-04-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

Media related to Moschus moschiferus at Wikimedia Commons

This page was last edited on 23 April 2019, at 21:37
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