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Muntiacus truongsonensis

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA CERVIDAE

Scientific Name: Muntiacus truongsonensis
Species Authority: (Giao, Tuoc, Dung, Wikramanayake, Amato, Arctander & Mackinnon, 1997)
Common Name(s):
English Annamite Muntjac, Pygmy Muntjac, Annam Black Muntjac, Annamite Dark Muntjac, Truongson Muntjac, Truong Son Muntjac
French Muntjac De Truong Son
Synonym(s):
Caninmuntiacus truongsonensis [Pham Mong] Giao, [Do] Tuoc, Eric [Wikramanayake], [Vu Van] Dung et al. in Nguyen An Quang Ha, 1997 [earliest available name]
Muntiacus napensis Tobias, 1997 [nomen nudum]
Muntiacus truongsonensis P.M. Giao, D. Tuoc, V.V. Dung, Wikramanayake, Amato, Arctander & Mackinnon, 1998 [junior objective synonym and homonym]
Taxonomic Notes: This nominal taxon had a tortured arrival and history. The first available name is Caninmuntiacus truongsonensis [Pham Mong] Giao, [Do] Tuoc, Eric [Wikramanayake], [Vu Van] Dung et al. in Nguyen An Quang Ha, 1997, in a newspaper article. This meets all International Code for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) criteria for availability (Grubb 2005) and therefore by the ICZN principle of priority must stand as the valid name for this taxon, unless an earlier available name is found. The following year, Muntiacus truongsonensis P.M. Giao, D. Tuoc, V.V. Dung, Wikramanayake, Amato, Arctander and Mackinnon, 1998 was proposed, explicitly as a new name (not as a clarification of the earlier name). This 1998 proposal is certainly based on the same collected material as the 1997 proposal so is a junior objective synonym of the latter. As the species-group name is spelled exactly the same way as in the 1997 proposal, it is also a junior homonym of it. Neither original description allows objective morphological determination of what the name applies to, although mtDNA sequences shared with no previously-named muntjac were isolated from the material collected (P.M. Giao et al. 1998). The 1997 publication indicated no holotype, and gave no details on where the syntypes were or would be lodged. The 1998 publication of the junior synonym named a holotype; Grubb (2005) considered that “technically it is probably a lectotype”. In fact, as the 1998 publication was explicitly proposing a new name, not a reinterpretation of the 1997 name, the holotype designated is indeed the holotype, but of their junior synonym; it could have no bearing on the 1997 name Caninmuntiacus truongsonensis, the senior (and thus valid) name for this group, unless an explicit nomenclatural act were to associate the specimen with that name, as a lectotype (there appears no doubt that the 1998 holotype is from the syntype series in the 1997 original description). Such an act would be unwise, because the specimen may not now be traceable, and in any case is not known to have been the source of the DNA result and it has no pelage associated with it, nor might it be a complete skull with all relevant diagnostic features present. Therefore, to make this single specimen the name-bearing type would handicap progress in resolving this name’s applicability and if it were found to have different DNA, would firmly install even more confusion. Nomenclatural stability, and thus conservation, would best be served by designating as a neotype a specimen (ideally full skeletal and pelt) lodged in a named internationally accessible collection with long-term storage facilities, which shares the exact genetic sequence provided in the 1998 description of the junior synonym. There is currently no known specimen suitable for this course of events.

Some of the biological material referred to in the articles of Nguyen An Quang Ha (1997) and P.M. Giao et al. (1998) was shown in 1998 to R.J. Timmins (pers. comm. 2008) by Do Tuoc in the collections of the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute, Hanoi. This material, consisting entirely of damaged skulls and mandibles, is poorly, although distinctively, labelled. Part of the explanation for the confusion over application of the name results from it including at least two species: one or more taxa in the M. rooseveltorum species-complex and one specimen of northern red muntjac M. vaginalis. The three specimens illustrated in Nguyen An Quang Ha (1997) and several other newspapers and magazines were not present in this FIPI collection. Several years later, R.J. Timmins (pers. comm. 2008) came across them in the WWF offices in Hanoi, where they appear to have been since 1997. None of either the FIPI or WWF material is labelled as any form of type, or has the markings as described in P.M. Giao et al. (1998). Until a lectotype or neotype of C. truongsonensis P.M. Giao et al. in Nguyen An Quang Ha, 1997 is established in an explicit nomenclatural act, it is not possible to begin to determine the diagnostic morphological characters of M. truongsonensis. Until such an act it is only speculation whether any or all of the pelage characters or the mtDNA sequences given by P.M. Giao et al. (1998) and Amato et al. (1999a, 1999b, 2000), or the skull characteristics of some of the FIPI and WWF material which appear to be significantly different from M. rooseveltorum (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008), in fact are those of M. truongsonensis, although with appropriate typification, they could probably be made to be. This uncertainty is because it is effectively impossible that all syntypes (comprising, as they do, 2–3 species) would share the same mtDNA or pelage features with each other, and they certainly do not share skull features. It is not clear whether the genetic analysis of the 1998 publication included the 1998 holotype (for which, as argued above, it would not be sensible to propose formally as the lectotype of the 1997 name), although it seems a reasonable inference that it involved the 1997 syntypes. Until a lectotype or neotype of the 1997 name is selected, it is not possible to assess the possibility that gene sequences published in P.M. Giao et al. (1998), and Amato et al. (1999a, 1999b, 2000), could actually refer to a taxon different from those skulls within the syntype series with obviously novel morphological characteristics (which were not discussed in either the 1997 or 1998 publications). This possibility is real, although slight, because of the presence of at least two apparently species-level taxa within the syntype series and the fairly likely sympatric occurrence of M. rooseveltorum with the taxon generally taken to be represented by the name M. truongsonensis, or even the possibility of a closely similar taxon (perhaps M. puhoatensis). M. rooseveltorum is morphologically very similar to material currently assumed to represent M. truongsonensis, and an animal very similar in skull and pelage features to the holotype of M. rooseveltorum has been recorded from the Xe Sap NPA area of Lao PDR, very close to the type locality of M. truongsonensis (R.J. Timmins pers. obs. based on material collected by R. Steinmetz and Tanya Chanard).

Although morphological characteristics cannot, therefore, be objectively defined for the presumed taxon to which the name M. truongsonensis is being applied there exist various specimens very similar to, but obviously different from, M. rooseveltorum. These have generally dark rather than brown or reddish pelage, a tail that is blackish dorsally and long premaxillae that contact the nasals rather than short premaxillae that do not. These are taken here provisionally to represent M. truongsonensis (in the hope that this morphologically-defined group will be found to correspond to the novel genetic sequence of P.M. Giao et al. 1998, and that appropriate typification could cement this hypothesis). However, there is still considerable variation in these morphological traits within available Indochinese specimens of the M. rooseveltorum complex, and some animals show character states apparently intermediate between M. rooseveltorum and 'M. truongsonensis'. It is not clear whether these represent hybrids or indicate that intraspecific variation is wide enough to blur interspecific variation, because very few complete specimens are available for which congruence between morphological traits can be compared: in fact out of over 50 specimens of this complex from Lao PDR and Viet Nam, R.J. Timmins (pers. comm. 2008) is only aware of two complete specimens, in which both skull and pelage features can be fully documented, the holotype of M. rooseveltorum and a female collected by R. Steinmetz and Tanya Chanard from the Xe Sap NPA area of Lao PDR.

See also M. rooseveltorum for further complications concerning this species-complex.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W. & Long, B.
Reviewer(s): Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
Justification:
This nominal species is listed as Data Deficient because current taxonomic uncertainties prevent clarification of status and distribution of this species within the many specimens and photographs of animals undoubtedly belonging to the M. rooseveltorum species-complex (see taxonomic note). As a result there is no reasonable way to estimate its species-specific range or conservation status within that of the species-complex. General hunting levels in the region are high but there is no information about how tolerant the species may be to hunting (northern red muntjac is able to withstand high hunting, but there is no real reason to believe that this trait is shared with the rest of the genus, but equally nor is there any reason to believe that it is not). Habitat loss is probably a threat in some regions, but levels of tolerance of fragmentation and degradation cannot yet be assessed.
History:
2000 Data Deficient

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The distribution limits of this species are unknown, reflecting ambiguity over what the name refers to, and how to identify taxa within the M. rooseveltorum complex. For a description of the range of this species-complex see M. rooseveltorum. The syntypes of M. truongsonensis were collected from four houses in three locations in Hien District, west Quang Nam Province, Viet Nam. “The three locations are: Hien, the district capital, A Tin village, and A Plo village (15°56'59''N, 107°34'18''E)” (P.M. Giao et al. 1998). Two skulls which share the distinctive mtDNA sequences presented by P.M. Giao et al. (1998) for M. truongsonensis were collected in the adjacent area of Lao PDR, on the Dakchung Plateau (Amato et al. 1999b, 2000; R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Published range descriptions for M. truongsonensis (e.g. Groves and Schaller 2000; Grubb 2005) are hypothetical. Specimens and camera-trap photographs of animals of the M. rooseveltorum complex, but morphologically dissimilar to the M. rooseveltorum holotype (see taxonomic note) occur from the type locality of M. truongsonensis north to at least the northern highlands of Lao PDR and Viet Nam and probably into adjacent areas of China (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). M. truongsonensis may be found to occur throughout the range of the M. rooseveltorum species-complex (dark-pelaged animals appear to be widespread), but equally it could be much more localised.

Circumstantial evidence from Myanmar presents a possibility of more than one taxon in the M. rooseveltorum species complex in that region (see 2008 Red List account for M. putaoensis), with potentially similar pelage and skull character variation as shown in Indochina. Amato et al. (1999a, 1999b, 2000) placed M. putaoensis as the sister taxon to M. truongsonensis on the basis of mtDNA, and the holotype of the former species shares with specimens speculated to be M. truongsonensis long premaxillae that contact the nasals; in fact skulls of these two taxa may be (nearly) impossible to diagnose apart (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Some uncertainty exists over the pelage characteristics of M. putaoensis, although the assumption is that they are reddish animals (see 2008 Red List account for M. putaoensis). Contrary to the statements of Rabinowitz et al. (1999) and others, which have not taken into account the patchiness of suitable surveying, the ‘small’ muntjacs comprising the M. rooseveltorum species-complex are not particularly restricted in range, but are rather widespread in montane areas of northern southeast Asia. The lack of evidence of the complex from many areas, giving an apparent disjunct distribution, is much more likely to reflect the paucity of suitable surveys than the genuine distribution pattern. Survey work in south-west and south-east China, much of Myanmar, the Himalayan region and northern and western Thailand have certainly been insufficient to conclude anything about the range of this species-complex in those regions.

Grubb (2005) suggested that various muntjac specimens recorded from China (in Sokolov 1957; Shou 1962) might be attributable to M. truongsonensis, without giving profound justification. It seems, on current knowledge, equally likely that they belong elsewhere in the M. rooseveltorum species-complex, or, as suggested by the original authors, that they refer to animals from the M. crinifrons species-complex (i.e. that species, M. feae and M. gongshanensis).
Countries:
Native:
Lao People's Democratic Republic; Viet Nam
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Over 50 specimens (not all now extant) and close to 100 camera-trap photographs of the species-complex are known to R.J. Timmins from Indochina (pers. comm. 2008), suggesting it is relatively common in both Lao PDR and especially Viet Nam. Results from camera-trapping in Lao PDR (Nan Et–Phou Louey NPA: R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on unpublished data A. Johnson/ WCS; Nakai-Nam Theun NPA: R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on Watershed Management Protection Agency unpublished data; Robichaud et al. in prep.) and Viet Nam (Hoang Lien Son mountain range: R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on unpublished data S. Swann/FFI) show that the species-complex is at least locally common at these sites, and it could be so over much of its range. In other areas, mostly south of the previous list of areas, such as Pu Mat NR; Thua-Thien Hue province; and Quang Nam province (Viet Nam), and Bolikhamsai province (Lao PDR), the species-complex has been camera-trapped less frequently than M. vaginalis in each area, but this may reflect ecological factors of sampling areas, such as habitat and altitude range (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on various unpublished datasets; SFNC 2000; Robichaud and Stuart 1999).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: In Lao PDR this species-complex is probably restricted to higher elevations (over 1,000 m asl) and forests at the evergreen end of the spectrum; it may be absent from forest even above 1,000 m asl in drier western areas. In Viet Nam it occurs also down to lower altitudes (perhaps to the foothills) especially on the eastern slope of the Annamites and probably also in northeastern areas (east of the Red River) (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2006). Social ecology is likely to be similar to other species of muntjac, which are generally solitary and territorial.

The complex is widely sympatric with northern red muntjac M. vaginalis, although at high elevations over about 1,500 m asl that species appears to become scarce or naturally absent within Indochina, whereas the rooseveltorum complex ascends to over 2,000 m asl in at least northern Viet Nam (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on photographs and other unpublished data of S. Swann/FFI).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat to the species-complex is hunting. Especially within Lao PDR and Viet Nam, there is indiscriminate snaring throughout its known range, for local meat consumption and a thriving bushmeat trade (see Timmins et al. 2007). However, the best protection from hunting at present is the ‘cushioning’ effect of large forest blocks, where the costs of extracting wildlife of low to medium commercial value from the centre are higher than the income from selling it, and where habitat is so extensive it is simply more difficult to hunt out cryptic, non-gregarious species, than it is in smaller forest blocks. Because most such blocks within the complex’s geographical range are centred on rugged terrain, with higher elevations forming the core of such areas, these muntjacs are likely to be significantly less threatened than are sympatric ground-dwelling mammals with altitudinal ranges limited to lower elevations.

In localized areas, especially of northern Indochina, the species-complex is likely to be affected by habitat loss. Here, most ethnic groups practice shifting cultivation and in recent decades there has been a clear net loss and fragmentation of forest: such shifting cultivation is not now in a balanced cycle (for rotational systems), or never was (frontier systems). The adaptability of the species-complex to degraded or fragmented habitats is not well known, although evidence from northern Lao PDR suggests that animals there persist in landscape-scale mosaics including extensive secondary, degraded forest fragments and cultivation (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2006). In general it appears that muntjacs (particularly M. vaginalis and M. reevesi) adapt well to secondary and degraded habitats and in fact may reach higher densities in such areas than they do in unencroached habitats. More serious than losses to shifting cultivation, in the most recent years and the immediate future, is likely to be the large-scale replacement of natural forests (albeit mostly heavily degraded) with rubber plantations to supply the burgeoning Chinese market. This is affecting large areas of the northern highlands of Lao PDR and elsewhere, and will have three linked negative effects on ground-dwelling mammals: direct loss of habitat (it is unlikely that rubber plantations will support even mediocre densities of this species-complex, although this is not yet known), decline and destabilisation of the forest resource-base (including wild-meat sources) for subsistence-level communities, leading to higher hunting levels in remaining wildlife areas (C. Wood pers. comm. 2005 to J.W. Duckworth, based on emerging patterns across several provinces in Lao PDR’s northern highlands); and shrinkage of the size of natural habitat blocks and thereby reduction and, locally, loss, of the cushioning effect.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Taxonomic uncertainties within this species-complex forestall any analysis of conservation needs for the individual species. Populations of this species-complex occur in probably most protected areas of the Annamite range and northern highlands of Lao PDR and Viet Nam (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2006). If M. truongsonensis were a localised species then conservation measures additional to support and consolidation of the existing protected area system may be warranted.

Whatever actual taxonomic pattern is found within the species-complex, management of hunting will need to recognise that hunters cannot be expected to recognise muntjacs to species in the field: some methods are non-selective (e.g. snares) while active projectile hunting (e.g. guns, bows, blow-pipes) would be severely reduced in their harvest efficiency if identification had to precede shooting. The only realistic site-based management tool for this species-complex is likely to be the declaration of suitably-sized ‘core areas’, site in ecologically appropriate areas, where all hunting using methods suitable for muntjacs, including under hitherto traditional rights, is prevented. Lao protected area legislation apparently provides for ‘core areas’ within each national protected area although few if any have yet been declared. Each protected area within the species-complex’s range should therefore have at least one large (several hundred km², in the absence of any empirical knowledge of muntjac spatial ecology) core zone declared and enforced. This measure implemented in conjunction with well considered hunting management in peripheral forest areas might also benefit the ongoing dietary needs of local people, who could harvest in a controlled manner animals outside core zones, and who, in parts of montane Lao PDR that have been effectively studied, are being forced into involuntary veganism because the lack of effective wildlife management and sensible hunting quotas, has meant wildlife stocks have fallen severely (Krahn and Johnson 2007).

Citation: Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W. & Long, B. 2008. Muntiacus truongsonensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 September 2014.
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