Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 203–218 | Cite as

Factors influencing seasonal and monthly changes in the group size of chital or axis deer in southern India

  • T. R. Shankar Raman


Chital or axis deer (Axis axis) form fluid groups that change in size temporally and in relation to habitat. Predictions of hypotheses relating animal density, rainfall, habitat structure, and breeding seasonality, to changes in chital group size were assessed simultaneously using multiple regression models of monthly data collected over a 2 yr period in Guindy National Park, in southern India. Over 2,700 detections of chital groups were made during four seasons in three habitats (forest, scrubland and grassland). In scrubland and grassland, chital group size was positively related to animal density, which increased with rainfall. This suggests that in these habitats, chital density increases in relation to food availability, and group sizes increase due to higher encounter rate and fusion of groups. The density of chital in forest was inversely related to rainfall, but positively to the number of fruiting tree species and availability of fallen litter, their forage in this habitat. There was little change in mean group size in the forest, although chital density more than doubled during the dry season and summer. Dispersion of food items or the closed nature of the forest may preclude formation of larger groups. At low densities, group sizes in all three habitats were similar. Group sizes increased with chital density in scrubland and grassland, but more rapidly in the latter—leading to a positive relationship between openness and mean group size at higher densities. It is not clear, however, that this relationship is solely because of the influence of habitat structure. The rutting index (monthly percentage of adult males in hard antler) was positively related to mean group size in forest and scrubland, probably reflecting the increase in group size due to solitary males joining with females during the rut. The fission-fusion system of group formation in chital is thus interactively influenced by several factors. Aspects that need further study, such as interannual variability, are highlighted.


Grouping behaviour Axis axis population density rainfall tropical dry evergreen forest scrubland grassland seasonality 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. R. Shankar Raman
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Ecological Research and ConservationMysoreIndia

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