Sharp climatic oscillations during the ice ages led to deer evolving and differentiating very rapidly, producing a high number of species and subspecies.
Due to their dynamic evolution and abundance as fossils, deer have been the focus of intense research. There is no agreement, however, on the validity of individual species and subspecies and their inter-relationships.
This project aims to reconstruct the relationships between deer populations that lived in Europe between 2.5 million years ago and the present. It is improving our understanding of current global diversity and the distribution of deer.
We are reconstructing the relationships between extinct deer species that lived in Europe between 2.5 and 0.5 million years ago.
We are investigating the following groups:
Fossil deer classification
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 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.