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Pudu


Pudu is a genus comprising two species of deer endemic to South America—the world's smallest and second smallest deer. The etymology of the name is uncertain, but many forms are considered correct. Pudus (which translates to "mapuche" or "the people of southern Chile") are divided into two species: the Northern pudu (Pudu mephistophiles) is found in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile; the Southern or Chilean Pudu (Pudu puda) is found in southern Chile and southwestern Argentina. Pudus range in size from tall and up to long. As of 2009, both species of Pudu are classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Taxonomy

The genus Pudu was first erected by English naturalist John Edward Gray in 1850. Pudua was a Latinized version of the name proposed by Alfred Henry Garrod in 1877 but ruled invalid. They are classified in the New World deer subfamily Capreolinae within the deer family Cervidae. The term "pudu" itself is derived from the Mapuche people of the Chilean region and translates to 'the people of southern Chile'. Because they live on the slopes of the Andes Mountain Range, they are also known as the "Chilean mountain goat".

Two similar species of Pudu are recognised:

The Southern Pudu (Pudu puda) is the better known species of pudu found in the Southern Andes of Chile and Argentina. It is slightly larger than its sister species, the Northern pudu, being tall at the shoulder and weighs . The antlers of the southern pudu grow to be long and tend to curve back, somewhat like a mountain goat. Their coat is a dark chestnut-brown, and tends to tuft in the front, covering the antlers. It is found at lower elevations than its sister species, from sea level to .

The Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistophiles), found in the Andes of Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador, is the smallest species of deer in the world, being tall at the shoulder and weighs . The antlers of the northern pudu grow to about long, also curving backward. Their coat tends to be lighter than that of the Southern Pudu, but their faces are darker compared to the coat. It is found at higher altitudes than its sister species, from above sea level.

Description

The pudu are the world's smallest deer, with the Northern Pudu being the smallest. It is has a stocky frame supported by 4 short and slender legs. It is high at the shoulder and up to in length. Pudus normally weigh up to , but the highest recorded weight of a pudu is . Pudus have small, black eyes, black noses, and rounded ears with lengths of . Sexual dimorphism in the species includes an absence of antlers in females. Males have short, spiked antlers that are not forked, as seen in most species of deer. The antlers, which are shed annually, can extend from in length and protrude from between the ears. Also on the head are large preorbital glands. Pudus have small hooves, dewclaws, and a short tail about in length when measured without hair. Coat coloration varies with season, gender, and individual genes. The fur is long and stiff, typically pressed close to the body, with a reddish brown to dark brown hue. The neck and shoulders of an aged pudu turn a dark gray-brown in the winter.

Habitat and distribution

The pudu inhabits temperate rainforests in South America, where the dense underbrush and bamboo thickets offer protection from predators.. Southern Chile, southwest Argentina, Chiloe Island, and northwest South America are home to the deer. The Northern pudu is found in the Northern Andes of Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru, from above sea level. The Southern species is found in the slope of the Southern Andes from sea level to .

The climate of the pudu's habitat is composed of two main seasons: a damp, moderate winter and an arid summer. Annual precipitation in these areas of Argentina and Chile ranges from .

Behavior

Social

The pudu is a solitary animal whose behavior in the wild is largely unknown because of its secretive nature. Pudus are nocturnal and diurnal, but are mostly active in the morning, late afternoon, and evening. Their home range generally extends about , much of which consists of crisscrossing pudu-trodden paths. Each pudu has its own home range, or territory. A single animal's territory is marked with sizable dung piles found on paths and near eating and resting areas. Large facial glands for scent communication allow correspondence with other pudu deer. Pudu do not interact socially, other than to mate. An easily frightened animal, the deer barks when in fear. Its fur bristles and the pudu shivers when angered.

Predators of the pudu include the Horned owl, Andean fox, Magellan fox, cougar, and other small cats. The pudu is a wary animal that moves slowly and stops often, smelling the air for scents of predators. Being a proficient climber, jumper, and sprinter, the deer flees in a zigzag path when being pursued. The longevity of the pudu ranges from 8 to 10 years in the wild. The longest recorded life span is 15 years and 9 months. However, such longevity is rare and most pudus die at a much younger age. These deer die from a wide range of causes. Maternal neglect as newborns as well as a wide range of diseases can decrease the population. If alarmed to a high degree, pudus die from fear-induced cardiac complications.

Diet

The pudu is herbivorous, consuming vines, leaves from low trees, shrubs, succulent sprouts, herbs, ferns, blossoms, buds, tree bark, and fallen fruit. They can survive without drinking water for long periods due to the high water content of the succulent foliage in their diet.

Pudus have various methods of obtaining the foliage they need. Their small stature and cautious nature create obstacles in attaining food. They stop often while searching for food to stand on their hind legs and smell the wind, detecting food scents. Females and fawns peel bark from saplings using their teeth, but mature males may use their spikelike antlers. The deer may use their front legs to press down on saplings until they snap or become low enough to the ground so that the pudus can reach the leaves. Forced to stand on their hind legs due to their small size, the deer climb branches and tree stumps to reach higher foliage. They bend bamboo shoots horizontally in order to walk on them and eat from higher branches.

Reproduction

Pudus are solitary and only come together for rut. Mating season is in the Southern Hemisphere autumn, from April to May. Pudu DNA is arranged into 70 chromosomes. To mate, the pudu male rests his chin on the female's back, then sniffs her rear before mounting her from behind, holding her with his forelegs. The gestation period ranges from 202 to 223 days with the average being 210 days. A single offspring or sometimes twins are born in austral spring, from November to January. Newborns weigh with the average birth weight being . Newborns less than or more than die. Females and males weigh the same at birth. Fawns have reddish brown fur and Southern pudu fawns have white spots running the length of their back. Young are weaned after 2 months. Females mature sexually in 6 months while males mature in 812 months. Fawns are fully grown in 3 months but may stay with their mothers for 8 to 12 months.

Endangerment and conservation

Status and conservation

As of 2009, both species of Pudu are classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, mainly because of overhunting and habitat loss. Pudu puda is listed in CITES Appendix I, and Pudu mephistophiles is listed in CITES Appendix II. Many Pudus are in zoo captivity and are studied. The Southern species is more easily maintained in captivity than the Northern, though small Northern populations can be found in some zoos. Pudus are difficult to transport because they are easily overheated and stressed. Pudus are protected in various national parks. Parks require resources in order to enforce protection of the deer.

There are efforts to preserve the pudu species before they become extinct. An international captive breeding program for the Southern Pudu led by Concepcion University in Chile has been started. Some deer have been bred in captivity and re-introduced into Nahuel Huapi National Park in Argentina. Re-introduction efforts include the use of radio collars for tracking. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has banned the international trading of pudus. The Wildlife Conservation Society protects their natural habitat and works to recreate it for pudus in captivity. Despite efforts made by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the size of the pudu population remains unknown. Threats to the pudu remain despite various conservation efforts.

Threats

The pudu's endangerment is caused by the destruction of their rainforest habitat. The land is cleared for human development, cattle ranching, agriculture, logging, and exotic tree plantations.

Habitat fragmentation and road accidents cause pudu deaths. They are taken from the wild as pets, as well as exported illegally.

They are overhunted and killed for food by specially trained hunting dogs.

The recently introduced European red deers compete with pudus for food. Domestic dogs prey upon pudus and transfer parasites through contact. Pudus are very susceptible to diseases like bladder worms, lungworms, roundworms, and heartworms.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Pudu


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