Fanged deer not seen by scientists in over 60 years observed in Afghanistan

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

Before I read this news article, I did not know that there was such a thing as the Kashmir musk deer, with thin fangs hanging down on both sides of its mouth.  These are, in fact, very rare animals that live in forested slopes of Afghanistan.  The males use their fangs to fight other males during the mating season (but not to suck blood!).  Scientists had last seen them living in 1948, when on a research expedition, but since then, they have been listed as an endangered species.  They were not believed to be extinct, because their scent glands are sold on the black market as a traditional medicine and for perfume for $20,000/pound (more valuable than gold), but illegal poaching had dramatically reduced their numbers.

The Wildlife Conservation Society trains and funds local people in Afghanistan to monitor its wildlife, since nonprofit groups have not been able to send researchers to the area since 2010 due to heightened security concerns. The surveyors sighted at least three musk deer in steep, rocky outcrops surrounded by vegetation, including at least one male and a female with a juvenile. This discovery highlights a critical need to protect this species, as well as other rediscovered animals such as the Persian leopard, in Afghanistan’s wildlands.

Click one of the links to see a picture of the musk deer with its fangs!

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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.