A comparative analysis of hair morphology of wild and domestic ungulate prey species of Leopard Panthera pardus fusca (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae) from Goa, India

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Bipin S. Phal Desai
Avelyno H. D'costa
S.K. Shyama


Guard hairs were collected from four live domesticated ungulate species and shed guard hairs of six wild ungulate species from zoo captive animals from five individuals each.  Photographic reference was prepared showing analytic features of hair characteristics.  Study results were analysed and cuticle and medulla patterns were identified along with pigmentation features from the literature available for wild and domestic ungulates from India and abroad.  Clear and easily distinguishable morphological characters of hair medulla and cuticle were used in the present study.  Scat analysis of big cats used in this study is easy, speedy and efficient which can be used in routine investigations related to wildlife, crime forensics as well as human animal conflicts by studying carnivore feeding habits.  In a majority of the animal species, the distal part of the hair showed maximum variation from the rest of the hair portions.  The cuticle scales were imbricate in all tested animals.  Scale position in almost all the tested animals was transversal except in goat (proximal part and medial part) and mouse deer (Distal part).  Majority of the species showed smooth margins at proximal and medial part.  Whereas the distal part scale margin was crenate and rippled in appearance the proximal part and medial part of hair of the majority of sampled animals showed a regular wave -type scale pattern whereas the distal part of hair showed irregular wave-type scale pattern in dominance.  The composition of the medulla was multicellular in all the sampled deer species.  Only the cow calf’s hair medulla was unicellular and uniseriate in appearance.  A comparison of the hair of the domestic pig with that of the wild boar and gaur hair with that of cow calf and buffalo calf hair was made for the first time in the present study. Similarly goat hair morphology can also be differentiated from other cervids in this study.  Medulla and cuticle characters in combination with each other can help differentiate wild ungulate species from the domestic ones since these wild ungulate species are frequently involved in hunting crime investigations.  Therefore, the photographic reference presented in this study can be used in wildlife forensic science as well as predator diet analysis as an appropriate reference for prey species identification. 

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Author Biography

Bipin S. Phal Desai, Goa Forest Department, Government of Goa, Goa 403001, India.

Ph.D. Research student


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