Adaptive colouration in the hard-ground barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii branderi)

@paradoxornithidae @matthewinabinett @tandala @michalsloviak

The hard-ground barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii branderi) has remarkably plain colouration for a large, gregarious ruminant ( and and and and and and and

However, it shows the following:

  • sexual dimorphism, in which mature males are darker than adult females and lack countershading on the torso,
  • a possible caudal flag,
  • anterior and posterior auricular flags, and
  • a buccal semet.

In interpreting the photos of the hard-ground barasingha on the Web, please remember that Kanha National Park is closed to visitors during the rainy season in summer, which lasts 4.5 months (,weather%20becomes%20pleasant%20this%20time and

Although the antlers are shed in the dry season, I have yet to see a photo of any mature male in the antlerless condition or in young velvet.


The following shows that, during the rutting season, mature males have shaggy pelage while adult females retain summer pelage (

The following show that adult males lack countershading on the torso, enhancing their conspicuousness ( and and and and and

The following shows that adult but not fully mature males have not necessarily developed this feature yet (

Adult males possess a poorly-developed and individually variable muzzle-ring (

This is shown in and and and and and and and and and and and

The following ( and show that adult males may possess pale

  • at the crook-of-throat, and
  • at the tips of the tines of the antlers (at least in some individuals).

The following shows that the spotting on the body fades early in juveniles, but is retained along the dorsal line in adult females in summer pelage (

In 'winter' pelage, the dark dorsal stripe is somewhat retained, but the accompanying pale spots become faint (


The following show that there is a considerable pattern on the hindquarters ( and and and

The ventral surface of the tail is white (

However, the tail is small. Furthermore, in most views, the pattern on and near the tail is so subtle as to be hardly noticeable ( and and and

The following shows that adult males do not display the tail when fleeing ( and

The possibility remains that the hard-ground barasingha possesses a caudal flag in a social/sexual context. However, the photographic evidence has yet to emerge.


The following show that the anterior surface of the ear pinna, which is extremely hairy in the hard-ground barasingha, is conspicuously pale ( and

The following shows that this persists somewhat in mature males, despite the overall darkening of the pelage ( and and

The following show that the posterior of the ear is pale at its base and on the ventral surface of the pinna ( and

The following hints that this feature may be reduced or absent in mature males (

However, as for the loss of countershading on the torso, this may apply only to fully mature males ( and and and and


The following show the sexual difference in the pattern of dark and pale at the mouth ( and

The buccal semet in females conforms to what I have previously called a gape-spot (


From one perspective, the hard-ground barasingha is simply a dull version of various patterns of colouration widespread in cervids, particularly on the tail and buttocks, and on the muzzle.

However, this hardly does justice to the topic.

From another perspective, what is most remarkable about this colouration is the anterior auricular flag, which is better-developed than in most cervids.

However, this, too, needs qualification. The main reason for the conspicuousness of the white hairs on the front-of-ear may be the sheer hairiness of this surface - possibly explained by protection from blood-sucking insects in marshes.

From a different perspective again, what is most noteworthy about the adaptive colouration of the hard-ground barasingha is the seasonal change in the length of the pelage, which is also involved in sexual dimorphism.

What is odd about this seasonal change is that the habitat of this subspecies lies in the tropics, where the climate in 'winter' is mild. Comparable bovids under similar climates in Africa, such as Kobus (, show no seasonal changes in pelage.

At the same time, this makes little difference to the adaptive colouration, because the relatively bright hue of the summer pelage ( and and is not necessarily visible to ungulates and carnivores.

Overall, my finding is that the most important pattern in the colouration of the hard-ground barasingha is the auricular flags in females ( and

The colouration on the front-of-ear differs only slightly from that of comparable reduncin bovids ( However, the ears are noticeable in the hard-ground barasingha because the rest of its figure is relatively featureless.


Posted on Σάββατο 27 Μάιος 2023 20:28:46 UTC by milewski milewski


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I suspect that the following is mislabelled, and that the location is not Kanha National Park:

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