The project aims to reconstruct the relationships among the different extinct deer species which lived in Europe between 2.5 and 0.5 million years ago.
We are investigating the following groups:
Sharp climatic oscillations during the Ice Ages led to deer evolving and differentiating very rapidly, producing a high number of species.
Because of this, and because of their abundance as fossils, they have been the focus of intense research. However, there is no agreement on the validity of the individual species and on their inter-relationships.
Fossil deer are usually classified based on the morphology of their antlers, because of their frequency in collections. But antlers are very variable structures that can differ greatly between individuals and also from year to year in the same individual.
In contrast, teeth and limb bones are more conservative elements and are strongly influenced by natural selection. We are investigating minor morphological differences in the limb bones and teeth which could potentially be used to characterise the different species.
This project involves:
The research is funded by the European Commission through a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship 2009-2011.