The water deer (Hydropotes inermis) is one of the rare small ruminants in the world. There are two distinct subspecies in Far East Asia: one (H. i. inermis) lives in China, and the other (H. i. argyropus) lives in Korea. Unlike the Chinese subspecies, the diet of the Korean subspecies in the wild has rarely been studied. Here, we analyzed the diets of the Korean water deer by using 202 bp rbcL sequences of plants found in fecal samples. Both similarity (%) and phylogeny (NJ tree) of the sequences were considered for the sequence assignment. These methods successfully assigned each sequence to only one family of one order without exception. We found that the Korean water deer fed on a total of 18 orders and 24 families of plants in the summer season. It fed mainly on Asteraceae family (28.4%) followed by Fagaceae (15.9%) and Polygonaceae (11.5%). There was a significant difference in diet composition between lowland area and mountainous area deer (P < 0.001). The Korean water deer on Daebu Island are presumably browsers feeding mainly on forbs or woody plants.
- Feeding diet
- Korean water deer