This small family of artiodactyls (3 genera and 4 species) is found in southeastern Asia and Africa. Usually solitary and nocturnal, tragulids live in dense vegetation on the forest floor. They are primarily herbivorous, feeding on grasses, leaves, and some fruit, but they also eat invertebrates, small mammals, and even sometimes feed on carrion.
Mouse deer earn their common name because they are small; the largest individuals weigh around 4.5 kg. Their coats are some shade of brown above and white below. White spots and stripes can be seen on the body. Their muzzles are hairless. Their bodies appear short and compact, while the legs seem thin (relatively sturdier in the African species). They lack the facial and foot glands common to many members of their order.
Tragulids have a curious combination of primitive and derived traits. Their limbs, for example, are long and slender and end in hoofs. The carpals are cuboidal and highly specialized. Yet the lateral digits are present in tragulids (although not strongly developed), and tragulids are sometimes digitigrade. Even stranger, while the hindfeet have a cannon bone, the third and fourth metacarpals of the forefeet are either unfused (African species) or only partially fused (Asian species). Tragulids also have a unique ossified plate to which the sacral vertebrae attach.
Tragulids have neither antlers nor horns. A postorbital bar is present. There is no sagittal crest, and the mandibular condyle is long. Like bovids and cervids, they have a full set of lower incisors, but the uppers are replaced by a horny pad. Canines are present. These are sexually dimorphic: large and curved in males, smaller in females. The canines of males actually extend below the lower lips. The cheek teeth are selenodont, and the dental formula is 0/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 34.
The stomach of mouse deer is three chambered (lacking a well-developed omasum), and these animals are ruminants.
The fossil record of tragulids extends to the early Miocene.
Family Suidae Family Tayassuidae Family Hippopotamidae Family Camelidae Family Tragulidae Family Giraffidae Family Moschidae Family Cervidae Family Antilocapridae Family Bovidae
<<<<<<<>>>>>>>ARTIODACTYLA CARNIVORA CETACEA CHIROPTERA DASYUROMORPHIA DERMOPTERA DIDELPHIMORPHI DIPROTODONTIA HYRACOIDEA INSECTIVORA LAGOMORPHA MACROSCELIDEA MICROBIOTHERIA MONOTREMATA NOTORYCTEMORPHIA PAUCITUBERCULATA PERAMELEMORPHIA PERISSODACTYLA PHOLIDOTA PRIMATES PROBOSCIDEA RODENTIA SCANDENTIA SIRENIA TUBULIDENTATA XENARTHRA