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Encyclopedia > Irish Elk
Irish Elk
Fossil range: Pleistocene

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Genus: Megaloceros
Species: M. giganteus
Binomial name
Megaloceros giganteus
(Blumenbach, 1799)
Synonyms

Megaceros giganteus
Megaloceros giganteus giganteus The Pleistocene epoch (IPA: ) on the geologic timescale is the period from 1,808,000 to 11,550 years BP. The Pleistocene epoch had been intended to cover the worlds recent period of repeated glaciations. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 608 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (800 × 789 pixel, file size: 110 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Сл. 21. ... For other uses, see Scientific classification (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Animal (disambiguation). ... Typical Classes Subphylum Urochordata - Tunicates Ascidiacea Thaliacea Larvacea Subphylum Cephalochordata - Lancelets Subphylum Myxini - Hagfishes Subphylum Vertebrata - Vertebrates Petromyzontida - Lampreys Placodermi (extinct) Chondrichthyes - Cartilaginous fishes Acanthodii (extinct) Actinopterygii - Ray-finned fishes Actinistia - Coelacanths Dipnoi - Lungfishes Amphibia - Amphibians Reptilia - Reptiles Aves - Birds Mammalia - Mammals Chordates (phylum Chordata) include the vertebrates, together with... Subclasses & Infraclasses Subclass †Allotheria* Subclass Prototheria Subclass Theria Infraclass †Trituberculata Infraclass Metatheria Infraclass Eutheria Mammals (class Mammalia) are warm-blooded, vertebrate animals characterized by the presence of sweat glands, including those that produce milk, and by the presence of: hair, three middle ear bones used in hearing, and a neocortex... Families Suidae Hippopotamidae Tayassuidae Camelidae Tragulidae Moschidae Cervidae Giraffidae Antilocapridae Bovidae The even-toed ungulates form the mammal order Artiodactyla. ... Genera About 15 in 4 subfamilies. ... Binomial name Megaloceros giganteus (Blumenbach, 1799) The Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus) is an extinct deer that lived in Europe during the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene epochs. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (May 11, 1752 - January 22, 1840) was a German physiologist and anthropologist. ... 1799 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... In scientific nomenclature, synonyms are different scientific names used for a single taxon. ...

The Irish Elk or Giant Deer, Megaloceros giganteus (see Lister 1987, Geist 1998) was the largest deer that ever lived. It lived in Eurasia, from Ireland to east of Lake Baikal, during the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene. The latest known remains of the species have been carbon dated to about 5,700 BC, or about 7,700 years ago (Stuart et al. 2004) This article is about the ruminant animal. ... For other uses, see Eurasia (disambiguation). ... Lake Baikal (Russian: , pronounced ; Buryat and Mongol: Dalai-Nor) lies in Southern Siberia in Russia between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and Buryatia to the southeast near the city of Irkutsk. ... Late Pleistocene (also known as Upper Pleistocene or the Tarantian) is a stage of the Pleistocene Epoch. ... The Holocene epoch is a geological period that extends from the present day back to about 10,000 radiocarbon years, approximately 11,430 ± 130 calendar years BP (between 9560 and 9300 BC). ... Radiocarbon dating is the use of the naturally occurring isotope of carbon-14 in radiometric dating to determine the age of organic materials, up to ca. ... During the 6th millennium BC, agriculture spreads from the Balkans to Italy and Eastern Europe and from Mesopotamia to Egypt. ...


Its old common name is misleading: although large numbers of skeleton have been found in Irish bogs, the animal was not exclusively Irish, and neither was it closely related to either of the living species currently called elk; for this reason, the name "Giant Deer" is preferred in more recent publications (e.g. Lister et al. 2004, Hughes et al. 2006), following Gould (1974). Lütt-Witt Moor, a bog in Henstedt-Ulzburg in northern Germany. ... For other uses, see Elk (disambiguation). ...


The Giant Deer is famous for its formidable size (about 2.1 meters or 7 feet tall at the shoulders), and in particular for having the largest antlers of any known cervid (a maximum of 3.65 meters/12 feet from tip to tip and weighing up to 90 pounds). For the Poet Laureate of Milwaukee, see Antler (Poet). ... This article is about the ruminant animal. ...


The present species evolved around the Eemian interglacial, possibly from M. antecedens. The earlier taxon - sometimes considered a paleosubspecies M. giganteus antecedens - is altogether similar but had more compact antlers. This article is about biological evolution. ... Two ice core temperature records; the Eemian is at a depth of about 1500-1800 meters in the lower graph The Eemian interglacial era (known as the Sangamon interglacial in North America, the Ipswichian interglacial in the UK, and the Riss-Würm interglacial in the Alps) is the second... A taxon (plural taxa), or taxonomic unit, is a grouping of organisms (named or unnamed). ... A chronospecies is a species which changes physically, morphologically, genetically, and/or behaviorally over time on an evolutionary scale such that the originating species and the species it becomes could not be classified as the same species had they existed at the same point in time. ...


A significant collection of M. giganteus skeletons can be found at the Natural History Museum in Dublin. Irelands Natural History Museum is housed on Merrion Street in Dublin. ... This article is about the city in Ireland. ...

Contents

Evolution of antler size

Skeleton demonstrating how the antlers are best displayed in frontal view.
Skeleton demonstrating how the antlers are best displayed in frontal view.

The size of Irish Elk antlers is remarkable, and several theories have arisen as to their evolution. One theory was that their antlers, under constant and strong sexual selection, increased in size because males were using them in combat for access to females; it was also suggested that they eventually became so unwieldy that the Irish Elk could not carry on the normal business of life and so became extinct. However, it was not until Stephen Jay Gould's important 1974 essay on Megaloceros that this theory was tested rigorously. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2560 × 1920 pixel, file size: 536 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File historyClick on a date/time to view the file as it appeared at that time. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2560 × 1920 pixel, file size: 536 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File historyClick on a date/time to view the file as it appeared at that time. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... This article is about evolution in biology. ... Illustration from The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin showing the Tufted Coquette Lophornis ornatus, female on left, ornamented male on right. ... Stephen Jay Gould (September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. ...


Gould demonstrated that for deer in general, species with larger body size have antlers that are more than proportionately larger, a consequence of allometry, or differential growth rate of body size and antler size during development. In fact, Irish Elk had antlers of just the size one would predict from their body size. Note this does not mean that sexual selection played no part in maintaining large antler size, only that the antlers of the species' ancestors were already large to begin with. Indeed, Gould concluded that the large antler size and their position on the skull was very much maintained by sexual selection: They were morphologically ill-suited for combat between males, but their position was ideal to present them to intimidate rivals or impress females. Unlike other deer, M. giganteus did not even have to turn its head to present the antlers to best effect, but could accomplish this by simply looking straight ahead. Allometry is the science studying the differential growth rates of the parts of a living organisms body part or process. ...


Extinction

Discussion of the cause of their extinction has still focused on the antlers (rather than on their overall body size), which may be due more to their impact on the observer than any actual property. Some have suggested hunting by man was a contributing factor in the demise of the Irish Elk as it was with many prehistoric megafauna, even assuming that the large antler size restricted the movement of males through forested regions or that it was by some other means a "maladaptation" (see Gould 1974). But evidence for overhunting is equivocal, and as a continental species, it would have co-evolved with humans throughout its existence and presumably have adapted to their presence. It has been suggested that Charismatic megafauna be merged into this article or section. ... A maladaptation is an adaptation that is (or has become) less helpful than harmful. ...


More recent research pointed out that high amounts of calcium and phosphate compounds are required to form antlers, and therefore large quantities of these minerals are required for the massive structures of the Irish Elk. The males (and male deer in general) met this requirement partly from their bones, replenishing them from foodplants after the antlers were grown or reclaiming the nutrients from discarded antlers (as has been observed in extant deer). Thus, in the antler growth phase, male deer from Ireland were suffering from a condition similar to osteoporosis.(Moen et al. 1999) For other uses, see Calcium (disambiguation). ... A phosphate, in inorganic chemistry, is a salt of phosphoric acid. ... Osteoporosis is a disease of bone in which the bone mineral density (BMD) is reduced, bone microarchitecture is disrupted, and the amount and variety of non-collagenous proteins in bone is altered. ...


When the climate changed at the end of the last Ice Age, the vegetation in the animal's habitat also changed towards species that presumably could not deliver sufficient amounts of the required minerals, at least in the western part of its range. The most recent specimen of M. giganteus in northern Siberia, dated to 7,700 years ago - well after the end of the last Ice Age -, shows no sign of nutrient stress. This is actually quite unsurprising, as they come from a region with continental climate where the proposed vegetation changes had not (yet) occurred (Stuart et al. 2004). Variations in CO2, temperature and dust from the Vostok ice core over the last 400 000 years For the animated movie, see Ice Age (movie). ... Regions containing a continental climate exist in portions of Northern Hemisphere continents, and also at higher elevations in certain other parts of the world. ...


In conclusion, it is easy to advance a number of hypotheses regarding the disappearance of the more localized populations of this species. The situation is less clear regarding the final demise of the Giant Deer in continental Eurasia east of the Urals however. Stuart et al. (2004) tentatively suggest that a combination of human presence along rivers and slow decrease in habitat quality in upland presented the last Giant Deer with the choice of good habitat but considerable hunting pressure, or general absence of humans in suboptimal habitat.


References

  • Geist, Valerius (1998): Megaloceros: The Ice Age Giant and Its Living Relatives. In: Deer of the World. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0496-3
  • Gould, Stephen J. (1974): Origin and Function of 'Bizarre' Structures - Antler Size and Skull Size in 'Irish Elk', Megaloceros giganteus. Evolution 28(2): 191-220. doi:10.2307/2407322 (First page text)
  • Hughes, Sandrine; Hayden, Thomas J.; Douady, Christophe J.; Tougard, Christelle; Germonpré, Mietje; Stuart, Anthony; Lbova, Lyudmila; Carden, Ruth F.; Hänni, Catherine; Say, Ludovic (2006): Molecular phylogeny of the extinct giant deer, Megaloceros giganteus. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40(1): 285–291. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.02.004 PDF fulltext. Supplementary data 1, DOC fulltext Supplementary data 2, DOC fulltext Supplementary data 3, DOC fulltext
  • Lister, A.M. (1987): Megaceros or Megaloceros? The nomenclature of the giant deer. Quaternary Newsletter 52: 14-16.
  • Moen, R.A.; Pastor, J. & Cohen, Y. (1999): Antler growth and extinction of Irish Elk. Evolutionary Ecology Research 1: 235–249. HTML abstract
  • Stuart, A.J.; Kosintsev, P.A.; Higham, T.F.G. & Lister, A.M. (2004): Pleistocene to holocene extinction dynamics in giant deer and woolly mammoth. Nature 431(7009): 684-689. PMID 15470427 doi:10.1038/nature02890 PDF fulltext Supplementary information. Erratum in Nature 434(7031): 413, doi:10.1038/nature03413

Evolution, the International Journal of Organic Evolution, is a bimonthly scientific journal that publishes significant new results of empirical or theoretical investigations concerning facts, processes, mechanics, or concepts of evolutionary phenomena and events. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ... Nature is one of the most prominent scientific journals, first published on 4 November 1869. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ...

Further reading

Kurten is a paleo-anthropologist, and in this novel he presents a theory of Neanderthal extinction. Irish elk feature prominently, under the name shelk which Kurten coins to avoid the problematic aspects of "Irish" and "elk" as discussed above. The book was first published in 1980, when the name "Giant Deer" was not yet being used widely.

Björn Olof Lennartson Kurtén (1924 – 1988) was a distinguished vertebrate paleontologist. ... Dance of the Tiger is a short novel published in 1980 written by Björn Kurtén that deals with the interaction between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. ... For other uses, see Neanderthal (disambiguation). ...

External links

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  Results from FactBites:
 
The Case of the Irish Elk (840 words)
Cuvier's study of the Irish elk was a key part of the documentation that extinction had happened in the past.
The Irish elk was once considered a prime example of orthogenesis: it was thought that its lineage had started evolving on an irreversible trajectory towards larger and larger antlers.
Irish poet Seamus Heaney memorably described the Irish elk and the bogs where its fossils are found in his poem "Bogland."
Irish Elk - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (609 words)
Its name is misleading: although large numbers of skeleton have been found in Irish bogs, the animal was not exclusively Irish, and neither was it closely related to either of the living species currently called elk; for this reason, the name "Giant Deer" is sometimes preferred.
In fact, Irish Elk had antlers of exactly the size one would predict from their body size and no special theory of natural selection is required.
Recent research has determined that due to the high amounts of calcium and phosphate compounds required to form these massive structures, the Irish Elk males had to deplete these compounds partly from their bones, replenishing them from foodplants after the antlers were grown.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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