This 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:
In 2012 we announced the discovery of a new species of deer from the early Middle Pleistocene of Europe, Dama roberti. We are investigating its relationship to living fallow deer.
The research has been funded by the European Commission through a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship 2009-2011, and by Synthesys.
This project aims to reconstruct the origins of diversity within the living red deer group, as well as its distributional and genetic changes through the last ice age up to the present.
The red deer, Cervus elaphus, is one of the most widespread large mammals, extending across Europe, northern Asia and North America. It is also one of the most adaptable, surviving in habitats ranging from dense woodland to open forest, and from subarctic to Mediterranean latitudes. The species is also divided into a number of subspecies differing in size, coat, antler details and other features.