both in Kanha National Park at the Madhya Pradesh
C. H. Smith, 1827
|Chital native range|
The chital (//) or cheetal (Axis axis), also known as spotted deer, chital deer, and axis deer, is a species of deer that is native in the Indian subcontinent. The species was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben in 1777. A moderate-sized deer, male chital reach nearly 90 cm (35 in) and females 70 cm (28 in) at the shoulder. While males weigh 30–75 kg (66–165 lb), the lighter females weigh 25–45 kg (55–99 lb). The species is sexually dimorphic; males are larger than females, and antlers are present only on males. The upper parts are golden to rufous, completely covered in white spots. The abdomen, rump, throat, insides of legs, ears, and tail are all white. The antlers, three-pronged, are nearly 1 m (3.3 ft) long.
The scientific name of the chital is Axis axis. “Axis” has several possible origins: the Greek axōn, the Lithuanian ašis, or the Sanskrit akṣaḥ. The vernacular name chital is derived from the Hindi cītal or from the Sanskrit citrala, both of which mean “variegated”, in reference to the spotted coat of the deer. Another possible origin is from the Sanskrit citra, which means “bright” or “spotted”. The name of the cheetah has a similar origin. Other names for the chital are cheetal, cheetul, Indian spotted deer or simply the spotted deer, and axis deer.
Taxonomy and phylogeny
|Phylogenetic relationships of the chital (Pitra et al. 2004)|
The chital is the sole member of the genus Axis and is classified under the family Cervidae (deer). The species was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben in 1777. Earlier, Hyelaphus – comprising the Bawean deer (H. kuhli), the Calamian deer (H. calamianensis ), and the hog deer (H. porcinus) – was considered a subgenus of Axis. However Hyelaphus has now been elevated to generic status a 2004 phylogenetic study showed that Hyelaphus is closer to the genus Rusa than Axis[ambiguous]. The study showed that Axis is paraphyletic, and distant from Hyelaphus in the phylogenetic tree. The chital forms a clade with Rucervus duvaucelii (barasinga) and R. schomburgki (Schomburgk’s deer). The chital diverged from the Rucervus lineage in the early Pliocene (five million years ago). A 2002 study shows that Axis shansius, followed by A. lyra, is the earliest ancestor in the A. axis lineage. Axis is no longer considered a subgenus of Cervus.
The species is considered monotypic. A 1951 paper identified two subspecies of the chital: A. a. axis and A. a. ceylonensis (Sri Lankan axis deer). The validity of these, however, is disputed.[11