Friday mystery object #28 answer

On Friday I presented you with this mystery object:

This specimen is one of 14 of the same species that we have in the Study Collections Centre at the Horniman Museum. Myself and a collegue (Steve, king of knots) recently remounted all of our trophy plates on steel mesh, using steel S-hooks, plastazote foam and archival tape restraints and supports. The outcome has been very satifactory:

Unfortunately, most of these specimens have been donated from private collections where the information has not been retained with the specimen, so I have had to identify pretty much all of these trophies. The one I showed you on Friday is most likely to be a chital, Axis axis (Erxleben, 1777), from India – so well done to Debi Linton for being the first one to get it.

These deer are smaller than red deer but their antlers are of similar length – just less robust and with fewer tines (usually three per antler). The shape of chital antlers is quite lyrate, with the brow tines curving strongly outward (as spotted by Jake) usually with with the main beam continuing up to a single crown tine with just one point arising on the inside of the curve. The specimen I showed you is a bit odd in having a bifurcated brow tine on the right antler, but antler morphology is pretty plastic – after all they grow fast (about an inch a day) and they are grown every year, so they are very sensitive to nutrient availability and the general condition of the animal. In fact, half of the chital antlers in the collection have some kind of tubercle, additional point or area of unusual rugosity. Chital normally eat their shed antlers to recover nutrients.

Chital are known to have cooperative relationships with Northern Plains grey langur monkeys, where both species recognise each other’s alarm calls when a threat is detected. For the chital this is a very useful partnership, since not only do they benefit from the sharp eyes of the monkeys, they also get access to the fruit that they frequently drop. Despite this relationship, chital are the main source of food for tigers.

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