Distribution

Although dispersed over a wide geographical area in the Holoarctic Region since the Late Pliocene, the Alceini group is difficult to study today because remains are typically few and sparsely distributed, as the social organisation of these animals was probably non-gregarious.

Cervalces latifrons never reached the southernmost regions of Europe probably because of the warmer and drier climate. Notably, it has never been recorded from Spain, the peninsular portion of Italy (south than the Appennine chain), Dalmatian coast and Greece.

In Britain Cervalces latifrons is recorded only from the Forest Bed Formation, outcropping along the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.

Habitat

The amazing morphological stability in teeth, oral apparatus and limb bones within the Alceini tribe (extinct Cervalces and living Alces), and the numerous morphological peculiarities that the Alceini share with respect to other deer, suggest Cervalces latifrons and living moose are adapted to a similar diet, and lived in similar marshy habitats, with bushes and strewn debris.

Like living moose, Cervalces probably moved along flood valleys to range from the taiga, to both the tundra and steppe environments, and so was subject to a wide range of temperature.

These valley biotopes survived during the abrupt Pleistocene climatic variations when the forest degraded to a tundra-steppe association and vice versa. This may explain why the Alceini morphology remained, antlers apart, unvaried during the Quaternary.

Palaeobotanical and palaeontological data from European sites bearing remains of Cervalces latifrons indicate that it could have lived either in boreal forests and in mixed conifer and deciduous forests, and in meadow steppes. Warm-temperate deciduous forests seem to be excluded, probably because the wide antler span would have hampered movements in a closed forest.

A detailed reconstruction of the palaeoenvironment of Cervalces latifrons from a locality in Northern Italy has been performed through the pollen analysis of sediment adhering to its remains. It consists of:

  • a dry meadow or steppe with scattered conifers with well developed moist meadows
  • riverside forbs
  • palustrine herb communities surrounding the basin and along the watercourses

Cervalces latifrons probably browsed mainly on telmatic vegetation and high forbs in this locality, as observed today for Alces alces in some areas.

Cervalces latifrons habitat

Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction along a topographic transect through Ranica (Bergamo region, Italy) at the time of Cervalces latifrons occupancy, as inferred by detailed pollen analysis of the sediment extracted from a moose skull. 

Drawing modified from: Ravazzi 2003 - Gli antichi bacini lacustri e i fossili di Leffe, Ranica e Pianico Sellere.

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Glossary
Articular facet of the ungueal phalanx

Portion of the phalanx bearing the nails/claws which articulates to the previous finger/toe bones.

Chronospecies

A group of organisms that is derived from its ancestor (and/or develops into its descendant) by a process of slow, steady, evolutionary change and is not regarded as a member of the same species as its ancestor and/or descendant.

Cuneiforms

Bones of the ankle.

Ethology

Scientific study of animal behaviour.

Forbs

Herbaceous flowering plants that are not graminoids (grasses, sedges and rushes). The term is used in vegetation ecology to represent a guild of grassland plant species with broadly similar growth form, which in ecology is often more important than taxonomic relationship.

Holotype

The single specimen designated by an author to formally describe a new species.

Navico-cuboid

Main bone of the ankle of Ruminant animals.

Non-gregarious

Non-social, solitary

Metapodials

Hand and foot bones between the fingers/toes and the wrist/ankle.

Palustrine

Living in a marsh or swamp.

Phalanges

Bones of the fingers and toes.

Phyletic lineage

Ancestor-descendent populations that undergo morphological change over time.

Telmatic vegetation

Vegetation living in the swamp zone of a lake developing into a bog.