Graceful and elegant, the arrow deer is a striking figure on the grasslands. Travelling in small herds of up to eight, it has distinctive sail-like membranes running from the top of its head and down its long neck, which it can expand and retract at will. These membranes sense vibrations in the air and ground, warning it of potential predators. When threatened, the arrow deer will deploy its membranes to maximum, both to ward off enemies by making itself look bigger and also to prepare for escape.
The arrow deer prefers to hide in vegetation, feeding on nectar from flowers, but when in danger it will launch into an explosive sprint. By straightening its body and using its long, flat tail and neck membranes for lift, it shoots across the plains like an arrow, making it the fastest land animal on the Western Frontier.
The Na’vi of the Zeswa clan use the tendons from the arrow deer for their bows, and their colorful skins for drums. A popular tale told to Zeswa children – analogous to ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ from Earth folklore – contrasts an overly hasty arrow deer with a slow, wise zakru. The moral of the story – that it is better to take one’s time than act without thought – is often lost on boisterous Zeswa youths, but it doesn’t stop the elders from trying.