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Biota Neotropica

On-line version ISSN 1676-0611

Biota Neotrop. vol.11 no.3 Campinas July/Sept. 2011 



First record of the invasive alien species Axis axis (Erxleben, 1777) (Artiodactyla: Cervidae) in Brazil


Primeiro registro da espécie exótica invasora Axis axis (Erxleben, 1777) (Artiodactyla: Cervidae) no Brasil



Jonas SponchiadoI; Geruza Leal MeloII; Nilton Carlos CáceresIII, *

IPrograma de Pós-graduação em Biodiversidade Animal, CCNE, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria - UFSM, CEP 97110-970, Camobi, Santa Maria, RS, Brazil
IIPrograma de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Conservação, CCBS, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul - UFMS, CP 549, CEP 79070-900, Campo Grande, MS, Brazil
IIILaboratório de Ecologia e Biogeografia, Departamento de Biologia, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria - UFSM, CEP 97110-970, Camobi, Santa Maria, RS, Brazil




The exotic alien species Axis axis was introduced in the Americas at the beginning of last century and since then has established itself, expanding its distribution. This is the first record of this species in Brazil. In the extreme south of the country, an individual of A. axis was recorded with a camera trap in the Espinilho State Park. The area is close to the border of Uruguay and Argentina, countries where the species is established and from where this individual presumably originated. The Pampas biome is strongly disturbed by human activity in Brazil and since many native mammal species such as the Pampas deer Ozotoceros bezoarticus are threatened regionally. It is alarming that exotic populations can potentially rapidly expand their ranges in the region, as A. axis deer has done in Uruguay and Argentina. Possible consequences for this invasion are discussed.

Keywords: Pampas biome, introduction, exotic species, interference competition, Ozotoceros bezoarticus.


A espécie exótica invasora Axis axis foi introduzida no continente americano no início do século passado e desde então se estabeleceu, ampliando sua distribuição. Este é o primeiro registro da espécie para o Brasil. No extremo sul do país, um indivíduo de A. axis foi registrado com armadilha fotográfica, no Parque Estadual do Espinilho. A área é muito próxima a divisa com Uruguai e Argentina, países onde a espécie esta estabelecida e de onde provavelmente o espécime é originário. Visto que o bioma Pampa encontra-se fortemente alterado no Brasil e que muitas espécies da fauna de mamíferos nativa estão ameaçadas de extinção regionalmente, como o veado-campeiro Ozotoceros bezoarticus, é preocupante que populações exóticas estejam ampliando rapidamente sua área de distribuição na região, como fez A. axis no Uruguai e Argentina. Possíveis implicações decorrentes dessa invasão são discutidas.

Palavras-chave: bioma Pampa, introdução, espécie exóticas, competição por interferência, Ozotoceros bezoarticus.




The axis deer Axis axis (Erxleben, 1777) is a species of medium size, with head and body length 1.00 to 1.75 m, shoulder height 0.60 to 1.00 m and body mass 27 to 110 kg (Nowak 1991). The general coloration is reddish-brown with white spots present in the juvenile and persisting into adulthood. The abdomen, rump, neck, inner legs, ears and tail are white (Schaller 1967). Males have a pair of three-pointed antlers that are replaced annually (Nowak 1991).

Native to Asia (India, Nepal and Sri Lanka), the species is crepuscular in habits, inhabiting a variety of habitats from grasslands to open forest, but rarely penetrating dense forest. It is a social animal, typically in groups of 5 to 10 individuals; however, groups of more than 200 individuals have been reported (Nowak 1991). This species was introduced in several countries as an ornamental species, as a food resource, and for sport hunting (Lever 1985, Mares & Ojeda 1984). In the Americas it is present in USA, Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay (Achaval et al. 2007, Instituto... & México 2000, Novillo & Ojeda 2008, Fass & Weckerly 2010).

In the present study we describe the first record of the invasive alien species Axis axis in Brazil.


Material and Methods

The record presented here was obtained in Espinilho State Park (30º 11' 21" S and 57º 29' 53" W), with an area of 1,617 ha, the park is located in Barra do Quaraí municipality, extreme western Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil (Figure 1). The Quaraí River forms the southern border of this municipality with Uruguay, and to the west the Uruguay River forms its border with Argentina. Part of the Pampas biome, the dominant vegetation is a type of scrubland prairie, composed mainly of homogeneously spaced thorny trees with no canopy overlap, which has allowed the formation of extensive grassland (Veloso et al. 1991). Three leguminous, thorny, deciduous tree species that rarely exceed 5 m in height dominate the landscape: Prosopis algarrobilla Griseb., Acacia farnesiana (L.) Willdenow and A. caven (Mol.) Molina (Leite 2002). Riparian vegetation in this formation consists mainly of species of Myrtaceae and Fabaceae (Galvani & Baptista 2004). According to the Köeppen classification, the climate is Cfa (humid subtropical) and altitude ranges between 40 and 70 m above sea level. The average annual rainfall is 1300 mm, well distributed rainfall throughout the year. Average summer temperature is 26 ºC, with maximum reaching 38 ºC. Mean winter temperature is 15 ºC, though it can occasionally dip below zero.

The individual documented here was recorded during an inventory of mammal species carried out between November 2009 to September 2010, in which 15 camera-traps (spaced at least 500 m from each other) were monitored for six full days during six bimonthly field phases, totalling an effort of 12,960 h of camera trapping.


Results and Discussion

On December 04, 2009 a male individual of A. axis was recorded at 11:45 PM by a Tigrinus® Digital 6.0D camera trap (Figure 2). The trap was attached to a tree trunk about 30 cm above the ground, and baited with pieces of ham and corn mixed with cod-liver oil. The record was about 5.5 km from the Argentinean border inside the Brazilian territory.



Certain literature citations suggest that the species may have been previously introduced into Brazil (Duckworth et al. 2008, Nowak 1991), but no specific location, release date or specimen have ever been documented. Indeed, we were unable to find any basis for these reports in the available literature. This record therefore represents the first confirmed occurrence of this species in Brazil.

In Uruguay, A. axis was first introduced in 1930 in Estancia San Juan, department of Colonia, where it established and expanded (Achaval et al. 2007). In Argentina, it was introduced in the province of La Pampa in 1906 (Lever 1985), in the province of Buenos Aires in 1930 (Navas 1987), and later in Santa Fe, Neuquén and Río Negro (Petrides 1975), where the species is established in wild populations and is expanding its distribution in the country. Its current distribution in Argentina also includes the provinces of Formosa, Chaco, Corrientes, Córdoba, Entre Rios, Tucumán e San Luis (J. C. Chebez, personal communication).

We believe that the individual found in the Espinilho State Park originates from Argentina, as the species has undergone a recent northward expansion in that country, bringing it closer to the border with Brazil (Novillo & Ojeda 2008). The location of this record represents a natural extension of that range expansion (Figure 1). Nowak (1991) states that this species is a good swimmer, and thus the Uruguay River, which has a slow water flow and is as narrow as 600 m wide on the park boundaries would not represent a physical barrier to dispersal into Brazil. It is unlikely that the individuals appearance in Brazil was human assisted, as there is intense border survey and law enforcement on the Brazilian and Argentinean border by officers from both countries.

In the southern United States, Faas & Weckerly (2010) showed that A. axis outcompetes the native White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann, 1780, by interference. In the Pampas biome, the endangered Pampas deer Ozotoceros bezoarticus (Linnaeus, 1758), may suffer from a similar competitive impact where axis deer is present, since both theoretically employ the same food resources and habitats (Achaval et al. 2007, Machado et al. 2008, Nowak, 1991). In addition, the alien species larger body size confers an advantage in interference competition, as observed with O. virginianus in the southern United States (Faas & Weckerly 2010). In the vicinity of our study area, O. bezoarticus has suffered from widespread local extinction (Cáceres et al. 2007, Fontana et al. 2003) because of the poor state of conservation of the Pampas biome (Overbeck et al. 2007). Worryingly it is this habitat degradation that could facilitate further expansion of this exotic species in the Brazilian territory, if a nuclear population successfully crosses the Uruguay River into Brazil.

Specific studies are required to evaluate whether established populations of A. axis already exist in this poorly known region of Brazil.



Our thanks to Mauricio Barbanti Duarte for confirming the species identification. To our colleagues of the Laboratório de Ecologia e Biogeografia of the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria: Brisa Peres, Suelen Roani and Franchesco Della-Flora, for helping in the fieldwork. To Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico for a scholarship to the first author, and for financial support to NCC (Edital 06/2008 - Jovens Pesquisadores, Processo 569182/2008-5). NCC is a CNPq-research fellow in Brazil. We thank Paul Smith for helping in the English correctness of the text.



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Received 17/11/2010
Revised 31/03/2011
Accepted 08/07/2011



* Corresponding author: Nilton Carlos Cáceres, e-mail:

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