Overview

Comprehensive Description

Diversity

The family Cervidae, commonly referred to as "the deer family", consists of 23 genera containing 47 species, and includes three subfamilies: Capriolinae (brocket deer, caribou, deer, moose, and relatives), Cervinae elk, muntjacs, and tufted deer), and Hydropotinae, which contains only one extant species, Chinese water deer. However, classification of cervids has been controversial and a single well-supported phylogenetic and taxonomic history has yet to be established. Cervids range in mass from 20 lbs to 1800 lbs, and all but one species, Chinese water deer, have antlers. With the exception of caribou, only males have antlers and some species with smaller antlers have enlarged upper canines. In addition to sexually dimorphic ornamentation, most deer species are size-dimorphic as well with males commonly being 25% larger than their female counterparts. Cervids have a large number of morphological synapomorphies (e.g., characteristics that are shared within a taxonomic group), and range in color from dark to very light brown; however, young are commonly born with cryptic coloration, such as white spots, that helps camouflage them from potential predators. Cervids can be found in a wide range of habitats, from extremely cold to the tropics. They have been introduced nearly world wide, but are native throughout most of the New World, Europe, Asia and northwestern Africa, with Eurasia exhibiting the greatest species diversity. Although most cervids live in herds, some species, such as South American marsh deer, are solitary. The majority of species have social hierarchies that have a positive correlation with body size (e.g., large males are dominant to small males).

  • Feldhamer, G., L. Drickamer, S. Vessey, J. Merritt, C. Krajewski. 2007. Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, Ecology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Fulbright, T., L. Ortega-S.. 2006. White-Tailed Deer Habitat. College Station: Texas A&M Press.
  • Herna ́ndez Ferna ́ndez, M., E. Vrba. 2005. A complete estimate of the phylogenetic relationships in Ruminantia: a dated species-level supertree of the extant ruminants. Biological Reviews, 80: 269–302.
  • Huffman, B. 2010. "Cervidae" (On-line). Ultimate Ungulate. Accessed April 13, 2011 at http://www.ultimateungulate.com/cetartiodactyla/Cervidae.html.
  • Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole - Thomson Learning.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Geographic Range

Cervids are widely distributed and are native to all continents except Australia, Antarctica, and most of Africa, which contains only a single sub-species of native deer, Barbary red deer. Cervids have been introduced nearly worldwide and there are now 6 introduced species of deer in Australia and New Zealand that have been established since the mid 1800s.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Introduced ); oceanic islands (Introduced )

  • Bauer, E. 1985. Mule Deer: Behavior, Ecology, Conservation. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

There is a great deal of physical diversity within the family Cervidae. Moose, the largest extant member of the family, can reach up to 1800 lbs and the smallest, northern pudu, reach a maximum size of roughly 20 lbs. Typically members have compact torsos and very powerful elongated legs that are well suited for woody or rocky terrain. With the exception of Chinese water deer, all male cervids have deciduous antlers and caribou are the only species in which both males and females have antlers. Deer are primarily browsers (foraging on broad leaf plant material), and their low- (brachydont) to medium-crowned (mesodont) selenodont cheek teeth are highly specialized for browsing. Cervids lack upper incisors and instead have a hard palate. The anterior portion of the palate is covered with a hardened tissue against which the lower incisors and canines occlude. They have a 0/3, 0-1/1, 3/3, 3/3 dental formula. Other notable features of cervids include the lack of a sagittal crest and the presence of a postorbital bar.

Antlers grow from pedicels, boney supporting structures that grow on the lateral regions of the frontal bones. In temperate-zone cervids, antlers begin growing in the spring as skin-covered projections from the pedicels. The dermal covering, or "velvet," is rich in blood vessels and nerves. When antlers reach full size, the velvet dies and is rubbed off as the animal thrashes its antlers against vegetation. Antlers are used during male-male competition for mates during breeding season, and are shed soon afterwards. Typically, only males bear antlers however, both genders bear antlers in caribou. Antlers vary from simple spikes, such as those in munjacs, to enormous, complexly branched structures, such as those in moose. Antler structure changes depending on species and the age of the individual bearing them. Males of the genus Muntiacuc have both antlers and long, fang-like upper canines that are used in social displays. Although Chinese water deer are the only species without antlers, they have elongated upper canines that are used to attract mates. Antlers typically emerge at one year of age.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes shaped differently; ornamentation

  • Danilkin, A. 1996. Behavioural Ecology. London, UK: Chapman and Hall.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Cervids live in a variety of habitats, ranging from the frozen tundra of northern Canada and Greenland to the equatorial rain forests of India, which has the largest number of deer species in the world. They inhabit deciduous forests, wetlands, grasslands, arid scrublands, rain forests, and are particularly well suited for boreal and alpine ecosystems. Many species are particularly fond of forest-grassland ecotones and are known to reside a variety of urban and suburban settings.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; polar ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

All cervids are obligate herbivores with diets including grass, small shrubs, and leaves. In addition to the true stomach, or abomasum, cervids have 3 additional chambers, or false stomachs, in which bacterial fermentation takes place. In ruminants, the digestion of high-fiber, poor-quality food occurs via four different pathways. First, gastric fermentation extracts lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, which are then absorbed and distributed throughout the body via the intestines. Second, large undigested food particles form into a bolus, or ball of cud, which is regurgitated and re-chewed to help break down the cell wall of ingested plant material. Third, cellulose digestion via bacterial fermentation results in high nitrogen microbes that are occasionally flushed into the intestine, which are subsequently digested by their host. These high-nitrogen microbes serve as an important protein source. Finally, cervids can store large amounts of forage in their stomachs for later digestion. All cervids chew their cud, have three or four-chambered stomachs, and support microorganisms that breakdown cellulose. Unlike many other ruminants, cervids selectively forage on easily digestible vegetation rather than consuming all available food.

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Lignivore)

  • Van Soest, P. 1994. Nutritional Ecology of the Ruminant, Second Edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Whitaker, J., W. Hamilton. 1998. Mammals of the Eastern United States. 1998: Cornell University Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Animal / dung/debris feeder
larva of Aphodius borealis feeds on dung/debris dung of Cervidae
Other: major host/prey

Plant / resting place / within
imago of Aphodius nemoralis may be found in dung of Cervidae
Other: major host/prey

Plant / resting place / within
imago of Aphodius obliteratus may be found in dung of Cervidae

Plant / resting place / within
imago of Aphodius zenkeri may be found in dung of Cervidae
Other: major host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Arnium caballinum is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
perithecium of Arnium cervinum is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
perithecium of Arnium leporinum is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
perithecium of Arnium mendax is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: major host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Ascobolus cervinus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Ascobolus crenulatus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sessile apothecium of Ascobolus equinus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Ascobolus perplexans is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Ascobolus roseopurpurascens is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Ascobolus stercorarius is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Ascobolus stictoideus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
erect, usually in small fascicles stroma of Bombardioidea bombardioides is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
erect, usually in small fascicles stroma of Bombardioidea stercoris is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / pathogen
Borrelia infects Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
synnematum of Cephalotrichum dematiaceous anamorph of Cephalotrichum microsporum is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
synnematum of Cephalotrichum dematiaceous anamorph of Cephalotrichum nanum is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
synnematum of Cephalotrichum dematiaceous anamorph of Cephalotrichum purpureofuscum is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
basally immersed, mostly densely clustered perithecium of Cercophora coprophila is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: minor host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
basally immersed, scattered or in small groups perithecium of Cercophora mirabilis is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: minor host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
basally immersed, scattered or in small groups perithecium of Cercophora silvatica is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: major host/prey

Animal / associate
sporangiophore of Chaetocladium brefeldii is associated with dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
solitary or gregarious, sessile apothecium of Cheilymenia stercorea is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
perithecium of Coniochaeta leucoplaca is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
fruitbody of Conocybe coprophila is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of weathered dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sessile apothecium of Coprotus glaucellus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sessile apothecium of Coprotus granuliformis is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sessile apothecium of Coprotus lacteus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sessile apothecium of Coprotus rhyparobioides is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: major host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
sessile apothecium of Coprotus sexdecimsporus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
pseudothecium of Delitschia consociata is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
pseudothecium of Delitschia marchalii is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
pseudothecium of Delitschia niesslii is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
pseudothecium of Delitschia patagonica is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Fimaria theioleuca is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / pathogen
Foot and Mouth virus (FMD) infects Cervidae
Other: major host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
immersed perithecium of Hypocopra merdaria is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Iodophanus carneus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / parasite / ectoparasite / blood sucker
Ixodes ricinus sucks the blood of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sporangiophore of Mucor genevensis is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sporangiophore of Mucor saturninus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sessile apothecium of Peziza bovina is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
substipitate or sessile apothecium of Peziza fimeti is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
immersed perithecium of Phomatospora coprophila is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sporangiophore of Pilaira anomala is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sporangiophore of Pilobolus crystallinus var. crystallinus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
sporangiophore of Pilobolus crystallinus var. kleinii is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
superficial perithecium of Podospora appendiculata is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
immersed, neck protruding perithecium of Podospora curvicolla is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: minor host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Podospora decipiens is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: minor host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Podospora globosa is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Podospora granulostriata is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Podospora pleiospora is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Podospora pyriformis is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Podospora setosa is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
solitary, gregarious to subcaespitose fruitbody of Psathyrella tenuicola is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Pseudombrophila cervaria is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
solitary or gregarious, superficial, sessile apothecium of Saccobolus beckii is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
scattered or gregarious, superficial, sessile apothecium of Saccobolus depauperatus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
solitary or gregarious, superficial, sessile apothecium of Saccobolus glaber is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
scattered or gregarious, superficial, sessile apothecium of Saccobolus versicolor is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
gregarious perithecium of Sordaria alcina is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
gregarious perithecium of Sordaria fimicola is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
grouped perithecium of Sordaria superba is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
partly immersed perithecium of Sphaeronaemella fimicola is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella australis is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella bipartis is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella corynespora is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella grandispora is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella intermedia is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella leporina is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella megalospora is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella octomera is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of old dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella pulchella is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
mostly immersed pseudothecium of Sporormiella vexans is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
synnema of Stilbella anamorph of Stilbella erythrocephala is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae
Other: minor host/prey

Animal / dung saprobe
gregarious apothecium of Thelebolus microsporus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Thelebolus stercoreus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Trichobolus sphaerosporus is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / dung saprobe
apothecium of Trichobolus zukalii is saprobic in/on dung or excretions of dung of Cervidae

Animal / associate
imago of Typhaeus typhoeus is associated with dung of Cervidae

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecosystem Roles

Cervids are an important food source for many predators throughout their geographic range. For example, one study showed that over 80% of the feces of gray wolves in Algonquin Park in Canada contained the remains of white-tailed deer. Cervids are host to a variety of endoparasites, including parasitic flatworms (Cestoda and Trematoda) and many species of roundworm (Nematoda) spend at least part of their lifecycle in the tissues of cervid hosts. Cervids are also vulnerable to various forms of parasitic arthropods including ticks (Ixodoidea), lice (Phthiraptera), mites (Psoroptes and Sarcoptes), keds (Hippoboscidae), fleas (Siphonaptera), mosquitoes (Culicidae), and flies (Diptera). In addition, cervids compete with other species for food and other resources, which can effectually limit both inter- and intraspecific population growth.

Cervids play an integral role in the structure and function of the ecosystems in which they reside, and some species have been shown to alter the density and composition of local plant communities. For example, on Isle Royale National Park, MI, moose (Alces alces) have been shown to alter the density and composition of foraged aquatic plant communities, and fecal nitrogen transferred from aquatic to terrestrial habitats via the ingestion of aquatic macrophytes increases terrestrial nitrogen availability in summer core areas. Foraging by cervids has been shown to have a significant impact on plant succession, and plant diversity is greater in areas subjected to foraging. As a result, foraging might lead to shifts from one plant community type to another (e.g., hardwoods to conifers). In addition, moderate levels of foraging by cervids may increase habitat suitability for conspecifics. For example, litter from foraged plants decomposes more quickly than non-browsed, thus increasing nutrient availability to the surrounding plant community. Moreover, nutrient inputs from urine and feces have been shown to contribute to longer stem growth and larger leaves in the surrounding plant community, which are preferentially fed upon during subsequent foraging bouts. Finally, research has shown that the decomposition of cervid carcasses can result in elevated soil macronutrients and leaf nitrogen for a minimum of two years.

Although cervids can be host to numerous species of pathogenic bacteria and protozoa, in conjunction with anaerobic fungi, similar classes of microorganisms are one of the major reasons that cervids are as abundant and diverse as they are today. Bacteria comprise between 60 and 90% of the microbial community present in the ruminant's gastrointestinal (GI) tract and help break down cellulose. Ciliated protozoa, which makes up 10 to 40% of the microbe community within the rumen, help break down cellulose, while also feeding on starches, proteins and bacteria. The presence of anaerobic fungi in the rumen has only been known since the early 1970's. These fungi make up between 5 to 10% of the rumen's microbial abundance and are thought to help break down the cell wall of ingested plant material. Bacteria and protozoa that pass from the upper to the lower regions of the GI tract represent a significant portion of the dietary nitrogen required by their host.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Escalante, A., F. Ayala. 1995. Evolutionary origin of Plasmodium and other Apicomplexa based on rRNA. Proceedings from the National Academy of Science, 92: 5793-5797.
  • Kutz, S., E. Hoberg, L. Polley, E. Jenkins. 2005. Global warming is changing the dynamics of Arctic host–parasite systems. Proceedings from the Royal Society B, 272/1581: 2571-2576.
  • Pastor, J., B. Dewey, R. Naiman, P. McInnis, Y. Cohen. 1993. Moose browsing and soil fertility in the boreal forests of Isle Royale National Park. Ecology, 74: 467-480.
  • Risenhoover, K., S. Maass. 1987. The influence of moose on the composition and structure of Isle Royale forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Resources, 17: 357-364.
  • Bowyer, R. 1997. Effects of biogeography, population dynamics and predation. Pp. 265-287 in J Bissonette, ed. Wildlife and landscape ecology: effects of pattern and scale. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
  • Bump, J., R. Peterson, J. Vucetich., J., R. Peterson, J. Vucetich. 2009. Wolves modulate soil nutrient heterogeneity and foliar nitrogen by configuring the distribution of ungulate carcasses. Ecology, 90: 3159-3167.
  • Flanagan, P., K. Van Cleve. 1983. Nutrient cycling in relation to decomposition and organic-matter quality in taiga ecosystems. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 17: 795- 817.
  • Molvar, E., R. Bowyer, V. van Ballenberghe. 1993. Moose herbivory, browse quality and nutrient cycling in an Alaskan tree line community.. Oecologia, 94: 472-479.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

In areas where large carnivore populations have not been significantly reduced by humans, predation represents an important cause of mortality for cervids. For many species, predation is the primary means of controlling population densities. For many cervids, predation on calves is especially important in limiting population size, and much of this predation is accomplished by smaller carnivores (e.g., Canada lynx, caracal, and coyote). It is difficult, however, to estimate the natural effect of predation on cervids, as predator populations in many locations have been significantly reduced or eliminated by humans. To avoid predation, gregarious species foraging in open habitats group together to face potential threats. Solitary species avoid predators by foraging in or near the protective cover of woodland or brush habitat. The young of most cervids have spots or stripes on their pelage, which helps camouflage them in dense vegetation. All species give a harsh bark, which serves as an alarm to conspecifics. Pronking (i.e., continuously jumping high into the air) and tail-flaring is a known response to predators at close range, as well as when individuals are startled. Cervids also have acute senses of sight, hearing, and smell, which helps them avoid potential predators.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Cervids use three main types of communication: vocal, chemical, and visual. Vocal communication is used primarily during times of fear or excitement. The most common form of vocal communication is barking, which is typically used in response to a disturbance, such as visual contact with a predator or a disturbing noise. Barking is also used as an expression of victory after a competitive interaction between two males. Cervids also communicate through a variety of hormone and pheromone signals. For example, male cervids demarcate territory with glandular secretions rubbing their face, head, neck, and sides against trees, shrubs, or tall grasses. Cervids also use visual communication, known as scraping. Scraping is primarily used during mating season by males to advertise their presence and availability to females. To create a scape, males paw the ground with the forelimbs, producing patches of bare ground about 0.5 m to 1.0 m in width. Typically, scrapes are marked with a secretion from the interdigital glands located between their hooves. In response to a potential threat, some species stand with their body tensed and rigid, while leaning slightly forward, which signals the potential threat to conspecifics.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of most cervid ranges from 11 to 12 years, however, many are killed before their fifth birthday due to various causes including hunting, predation, or motor vehicle collisions. In most species, males have shorter lifespans than females and this is likely a result of intrasexual competition for mates and the solitary nature of most sexually dimorphic males, resulting in increased risk of predation. However, recent studies show that sex-biased mortality rates are tightly linked to local environmental conditions. Captive deer tend to outlive their wild counterparts as they are subjected to little or no predation and have access to an abundant supply of food. The lifespan of cervids decreases as the number of deer exceeds the local environments carrying capacity. In this case, young and old cervids tend to suffer from starvation, as stronger, middle-aged deer outcompete them for forage.

  • Whitehead, G. 1972. Deer of the World. London: Constable.
  • Toigo C, C., J. Gaillard. d. 2003. Causes of sex-biased adult survival in ungulates : sexual size dimorphism , mating tactic or environment harshness. Oikos, Oikos: 376-384.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Although most cervids are polygynous, some species are monogamous (e.g., European Roe deer). The breeding season of most cervids is short, with females coming into estrus in synchrony. In some species, males establish territories, which encompass those of one or more females. Males may then mate with those females who have territories within his own. In some cervids, females may form small groups known as harems, which are guarded and maintained by males, and in other species males simply travel between herds looking for estrus females. Sexual segregation is not uncommon in cervids; however, in some species permanent mixed-sex groups result in male-male competition for potential mates. In sexually segregating species, males join females only to copulate, leaving at the end of breeding season. Males establish dominance hierarchies among themselves, with the most dominant males achieving the most copulations. Males may hold dominance over a harem or territory and are often challenged by rival males. Male cervids significantly decrease forage intake during breeding season, which, in conjunction with being continually challenged by rivals males, ensures that dominance by any one individual is short lived. Antler growth is dependent on individual nutrition and evidence suggests that the size and symmetry of male antlers serves as an indicator of mate quality for females.

Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous

Cervids living in temperate zones typically breed during late autumn or early winter. Seasonal breeders at lower latitudes, such as the chital, breed from late spring into early summer (e.g., April or May). Conception usually occurs during the first estrus cycle of the breeding season, and those that do not conceive will re-enter estrus every 18 days until they become pregnant. Species living in tropical climates, such as grey brocket deer, often do not have a fixed breeding season, and females may come in to estrus multiple times throughout the year. Gestation in cervids ranges from 180 days in Chinese water deer to 240 days for elk, with larger species tending to have longer gestational periods. Roe deer are the only cervid known to have delayed implantation. Cervids typically have from 1 to 3 offspring, and often, not all fetuses are carried to term, as the number of offspring born each year is dependent on population density and resource abundance. Age at weaning varies among species, with smaller species nursing for only 2 to 3 months and larger species nursing for much longer. For example  Bornean yellow muntjacs are weaned by about 2 months of age and North American moose are weaned by about 5 months, however, erratic nursing may continue for up to 7 months after birth.

Body weight is more importance in determining sexual maturity in cervids than actual age; therefore, an individual's reproductive activity is dependent on environmental conditions and resource quality and abundance. Due to the energetic costs of lactation, this is especially true for females. In males, testes begin producing hormones at the end of the first year, and consequently, antler growth occurs during the end of the first year or the beginning of the second. However, because male-male competition plays a dominant role in cervid mating behavior, most males do not mate until they can outcompete rivals for access to females.

Although some cervids are solitary, most are gregarious and live in herds that vary in size from a few individuals to more than 100,000 (e.g., caribou. Average group size depends on the demographic composition (i.e., sex and age) of the immediate population, the degree of inter- and intraspecific competition, and resource quality and abundance. Habitat segregation in cervids tends to peak during calving and significantly decreases soon afterward. Most species are polygynous, and males use their antlers in combat to obtain and defend females. Sexual-size dimorphism is common in cervids. Males are larger than females in most species, and sexual dimorphism is more pronounced in the most highly polygynous species. Cervids have a number of glands on their feet, legs, and faces that are used during intraspecific communication. Males of many cervid species significantly decrease forage intake during mating season, and evidence suggests that feeding cessation in males is linked to various physiological processes associated with chemical communication during the breeding season.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

As with many artiodactyls, cervids can be classified as either hiders or followers. Altricially born cervids are highly vulnerable to predation for the first few weeks of life. As a result, mothers hide their young in the surrounding vegetation as they forage nearby. Hider mothers periodically return to their young throughout the day to nurse and clean their calves. Females that give birth to multiple offspring hide each individual in separate locations, presumably to decrease the chance of losing multiple young to a predator. Once young become strong enough to escape potential predators they join their mother during foraging bouts. Some species are precocially born and are able to run only a few hours after birth (e.g., Rangifer tarandus). These species are often referred to as followers.

Lactation is one of the most energetically expensive activities possible for female mammals and lactating cervids are often not able to consume enough food to maintain their body weight, especially during the first weeks of lactation. Typically, young are weaned earlier in smaller species; however, sporadic nursing may occur for up to 7 months after birth. Young cervids may stay with their mother until she is about to give birth to the subsequent season’s offspring. In many species, females stay within their mother’s range after maturation, while males are forced to disperse. In most species, males do not provide any parental care to their offspring.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents

  • Bowyer, R., V. van Ballenberghe, J. Kie, J. Maier. 2010. Birth-Site Selection by Alaskan Moose : Maternal Strategies for Coping with a Risky Environment. Mammalogy, 80: 1070-1083.
  • Bubenik, A. 2007. Evolution, Taxonomy and Morphophysiology. Pp. 77-123 in A Franzmann, C Schwartz, eds. Ecology and Management of the North American Moose, Second Edition. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.
  • Feldhamer, G., L. Drickamer, S. Vessey, J. Merritt, C. Krajewski. 2007. Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, Ecology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Miquelle, D. 1990. Why don't bull moose eat during the rut?. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 27/2: 145-151.
  • Putnam, R. 1989. The Natural History of Deer. United Kingdom: Cornell University Press.
  • Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole - Thomson Learning.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:570Public Records:389
Specimens with Sequences:435Public Species:50
Specimens with Barcodes:426Public BINs:46
Species:55         
Species With Barcodes:53         
          
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Barcode data

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Cervidae

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

The IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species lists 55 species of Cervidae, 2 of which are listed as extinct and 1 is considered critically endangered. Of the remaining 52 species, 8 are endangered, 16 are vulnerable, and 17 are listed as "least concern". The remaining 10 species are listed as "data deficient". Many more local deer population are on the cusp of extirpation, which could lead to inbreeding in adjacent populations. According to the IUCN, major threats of extinction for cervids includes over exploitation due to hunting, habitat loss (e.g., logging, conversion to agriculture, and landscape development), and resource competition with domestic and invasive animals. In addition, climate change has begun to contract species ranges and forced some species of cervid to move poleward. For example, moose, which are an important ecological component of the boreal ecosystem, are notoriously heat intolerant and are at the southern edge of their circumpolar distribution in the north central United States. Since the mid to late 1980's, demographic studies of this species have revealed sharp population declines at its southernmost distribution in response to increasing temperatures. In addition, climate change has allowed more southerly species to move poleward, which increases competition and disease transmission at range interfaces of various species (e.g., white-tailed deer and moose). Finally, cervids are an important food source for a number of different carnivores. As cervid populations decline, so too will those animals that depend on them. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) lists 25 species of cervid under appendix I.

  • Lenarz, M., M. Nelson, M. Schrage, A. Edwards. 2009. Temperature mediated moose survival in northeastern Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management, 73: 503-510.
  • Murray, D., E. Cox, W. Ballard, H. Whitlaw, M. Lenarz, T. Custer, T. Barnett, T. Fuller. 2006. Pathogens, nutritional deficiency, and climate influences on a declining moose population. Wildlife Monographs, 166: 1-30.
  • Colby, C. 1966. Wild Deer. New York, NY: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce.
  • CITES, 2011. "CITES species database" (On-line). CITES. Accessed April 15, 2011 at http://www.cites.org/eng/resources/species.html.
  • IUCN, 2010. "Mammals" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 15, 2011 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/search.
  • McCarthy, A., R. Blouch, D. Moore. 1998. Deer: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Cambridge, UK: IUCN.
  • Ohtaishi, N. 1993. Deer of China: Biology and Management. The Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishers.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Many species of cervid are viewed as agricultural pests, especially in areas where they have become overpopulated due to habitat alterations and lack of natural predators. The effects of deer on crops can be devastating. Most cervid species are forest dwellers and as a result, they can cause damage to timber by browsing, bark-stripping, and velvet cleaning. In addition, deer-vehicle collisions result in significant harm to the health and personal property of those involved. Many cervids carry diseases that can be transmitted to domestic livestock and certain species, including white-tailed deer, elk, and Javan rusa, have been introduced outside of their geographic ranges, causing significant harm to native plant and animal communities.

Negative Impacts: crop pest; causes or carries domestic animal disease

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans have a long history of exploiting both native and exotic deer species, having hunted them in every geographic region in which they occur. They are often hunted for their meat, hides, antlers, velvet, and other products. As humans began to rely more on agriculture, their dependence on deer species as a food source decreased. However, in areas where climate prohibits wide-scale agriculture, such as in the Arctic, deer species such as caribou are still relied upon for food, clothing, and other resources. In the past, caribou have even been domesticated by nomadic peoples in the high Arctic. Today, many cervid species are hunted for sport rather than necessity. Several species have also been domesticated as harness animals, including caribou and elk. Finally, cervids play an important role in the global ecotourism movement as various species of deer are readily observable throughout much of their native habitat.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; ecotourism

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Deer

Deer (singular and plural) are the ruminant mammals that comprise the family Cervidae. Species therein include white-tailed deer, such mule deer as black-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer (caribou) fallow deer, roe deer, pudú and chital. Male deer of all species (except the Chinese water deer) and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year, thereby differing from such permanently horned animals as antelope, which are in the same order as deer and may be superficially similar. The musk deer of Asia and water chevrotain (or mouse deer) of tropical African and Asian forests are not usually regarded as deer and form their own families: Moschidae and Tragulidae, respectively.

Terminology[edit]

The word "deer" was originally broader in meaning, but became more specific over time. In Middle English, der (Old English dēor) meant a wild animal of any kind. This was as opposed to cattle, which then meant any sort of domestic livestock that was easy to collect and remove from the land, from the idea of personal-property ownership (rather than real estate property) and related to modern chattel (property) and capital.[1] Cognates of Old English dēor in other dead Germanic languages have the general sense of "animal", such as Old High German tior, Old Norse djur or dȳr, Gothic dius, Old Saxon dier, and Old Frisian diar.

This general sense gave way to the modern English sense by the end of the Middle English period, around 1500.[2] However, all modern Germanic languages save English and Scots retain the more general sense: for example, German Tier, Alemannic Diere or Tiere, Pennsylvania Dutch Gedier, Dutch dier, Afrikaans dier, Limburgish diere, Norwegian dyr, Swedish djur, Danish dyr, Icelandic dýr, Faroese dýr, West Frisian dier, and North Frisian diarten, all of which mean "animal". (However, contrary to south European languages, Dama in Latin and daim in French mean "fallow deer" only).

For most types of deer in modern English usage, the male is called a "buck" and the female is termed a "doe", but the terms vary with dialect, and especially according to the size of the species. For many larger deer, the male is termed a "stag", while for other larger deer the same words are used as for cattle: "bull" and "cow". The male red deer is a "hart", especially if more than five years old, and the female is a "hind", especially if three or more years old; both terms can also be used for any species of deer, and were widely so used in the past.[3] Terms for young deer vary similarly, with that of most smaller species being called a "fawn" and that of most larger species "calf"; young of the smallest kinds may be a kid. A castrated male deer is a "havier".[4] A group of deer of any kind is a "herd". The adjective of relation pertaining to deer is cervine; like the family name "Cervidae", this is from Latin: cervus, "deer".

Venison originally described meat of any game animal killed by hunting,[5] and was applied to any animal from the families Cervidae (deer), Leporidae (hares), and Suidae (wild pigs), and certain species of the genus Capra (goats and ibex), but in the northern hemisphere its usage is now almost entirely restricted to the flesh of various species of deer.[citation needed]

In Southern Africa, venison is the meat of antelope.[6] There are no native Cervidae in sub-Saharan Africa.

Habitat[edit]

Sambar in Bangalore
Fallow deer in the United States
Philippine deer in Luzon, Philippines

Deer are widely distributed, with indigenous representatives in all continents except Antarctica and Australia, though Africa has only one native species, the red deer, confined to the Atlas Mountains in the northwest of the continent. However, fallow deer have been introduced to South Africa.

Deer live in a variety of biomes, ranging from tundra to the tropical rainforest. While often associated with forests, many deer are ecotone species that live in transitional areas between forests and thickets (for cover) and prairie and savanna (open space). The majority of large deer species inhabit temperate mixed deciduous forest, mountain mixed coniferous forest, tropical seasonal/dry forest, and savanna habitats around the world. Clearing open areas within forests to some extent may actually benefit deer populations by exposing the understory and allowing the types of grasses, weeds, and herbs to grow that deer like to eat. Additionally, access to adjacent croplands may also benefit deer. However, adequate forest or brush cover must still be provided for populations to grow and thrive.

Small species of brocket deer and pudús of Central and South America, and muntjacs of Asia generally occupy dense forests and are less often seen in open spaces, with the possible exception of the Indian Muntjac. There are also several species of deer that are highly specialized, and live almost exclusively in mountains, grasslands, swamps, and "wet" savannas, or riparian corridors surrounded by deserts. Some deer have a circumpolar distribution in both North America and Eurasia. Examples include the caribou that live in Arctic tundra and taiga (boreal forests) and moose that inhabit taiga and adjacent areas. Huemul deer (taruca and Chilean huemul) of South America's Andes fill the ecological niche of the ibex or wild goat, with the fawns behaving more like goat kids.

The highest concentration of large deer species in temperate North America lies in the Canadian Rocky Mountain and Columbia Mountain regions between Alberta and British Columbia where all five North American deer species (white-tailed deer, mule deer, caribou, elk, and moose) can be found. This region has several clusters of national parks including Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park (Canada), Yoho National Park, and Kootenay National Park on the British Columbia side, and Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Glacier National Park (U.S.) on the Alberta and Montana sides. Mountain slope habitats vary from moist coniferous/mixed forested habitats to dry subalpine/pine forests with alpine meadows higher up. The foothills and river valleys between the mountain ranges provide a mosaic of cropland and deciduous parklands. The rare woodland caribou have the most restricted range living at higher altitudes in the subalpine meadows and alpine tundra areas of some of the mountain ranges. Elk and mule deer both migrate between the alpine meadows and lower coniferous forests and tend to be most common in this region. Elk also inhabit river valley bottomlands, which they share with White-tailed deer. The White-tailed deer have recently expanded their range within the foothills and river valley bottoms of the Canadian Rockies owing to conversion of land to cropland and the clearing of coniferous forests allowing more deciduous vegetation to grow up the mountain slopes. They also live in the aspen parklands north of Calgary and Edmonton, where they share habitat with the moose. The adjacent Great Plains grassland habitats are left to herds of elk, American bison, and pronghorn antelope.

Reindeer in Sweden

The Eurasian Continent (including the Indian Subcontinent) boasts the most species of deer in the world, with most species being found in Asia. Europe, in comparison, has lower diversity in plant and animal species. However, many national parks and protected reserves in Europe do have populations of red deer, roe deer, and fallow deer. These species have long been associated with the continent of Europe, but also inhabit Asia Minor, the Caucasus Mountains, and Northwestern Iran. "European" fallow deer historically lived over much of Europe during the Ice Ages, but afterwards became restricted primarily to the Anatolian Peninsula, in present-day Turkey. Present-day fallow deer populations in Europe are a result of historic man-made introductions of this species first to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, then eventually to the rest of Europe. They were initially park animals that later escaped and reestablished themselves in the wild. Historically, Europe's deer species shared their deciduous forest habitat with other herbivores such as the extinct tarpan (forest horse), extinct aurochs (forest ox), and the endangered wisent (European bison). Good places to see deer in Europe include the Scottish Highlands, the Austrian Alps, the wetlands between Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic and some fine National Parks, including Doñana National Park in Spain, the Veluwe in the Netherlands, the Ardennes in Belgium, and Białowieża National Park of Poland. Spain, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus Mountains still have virgin forest areas that are not only home to sizable deer populations but also for other animals that were once abundant such as the wisent, Eurasian lynx, Spanish lynx, wolves, and brown bears.

The highest concentration of large deer species in temperate Asia occurs in the mixed deciduous forests, mountain coniferous forests, and taiga bordering North Korea, Manchuria (Northeastern China), and the Ussuri Region (Russia). These are among some of the richest deciduous and coniferous forests in the world where one can find Siberian roe deer, sika deer, elk, and moose. Asian caribou occupy the northern fringes of this region along the Sino-Russian border.

Deer such as the sika deer, Thorold's deer, Central Asian red deer, and elk have historically been farmed for their antlers by Han Chinese, Turkic peoples, Tungusic peoples, Mongolians, and Koreans. Like the Sami people of Finland and Scandinavia, the Tungusic peoples, Mongolians, and Turkic peoples of Southern Siberia, Northern Mongolia, and the Ussuri Region have also taken to raising semi-domesticated herds of Asian Caribou.

The highest concentration of large deer species in the tropics occurs in Southern Asia in Northern India's Indo-Gangetic Plain Region and Nepal's Terai Region. These fertile plains consist of tropical seasonal moist deciduous, dry deciduous forests, and both dry and wet savannas that are home to chital, hog deer, barasingha, Indian sambar, and Indian muntjac. Grazing species such as the endangered barasingha and very common chital are gregarious and live in large herds. Indian sambar can be gregarious but are usually solitary or live in smaller herds. Hog deer are solitary and have lower densities than Indian muntjac. Deer can be seen in several national parks in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka of which Kanha National Park, Dudhwa National Park, and Chitwan National Park are most famous. Sri Lanka's Wilpattu National Park and Yala National Park have large herds of Indian sambar and chital. The Indian sambar are more gregarious in Sri Lanka than other parts of their range and tend to form larger herds than elsewhere.

The Chao Praya River Valley of Thailand was once primarily tropical seasonal moist deciduous forest and wet savanna that hosted populations of hog deer, the now-extinct Schomburgk's deer, the Eld's deer, Indian sambar, and Indian muntjac. Both the hog deer and Eld's deer are rare, whereas Indian sambar and Indian muntjac thrive in protected national parks, such as Khao Yai. Many of these South Asian and Southeast Asian deer species also share their habitat with other herbivores, such as Asian elephants, the various Asian rhinoceros species, various antelope species (such as nilgai, Four-horned antelope, blackbuck, and Indian gazelle in India), and wild oxen (such as wild Asian water buffalo, gaur, banteng, and kouprey). One way that different herbivores can survive together in a given area is for each species to have different food preferences, although there may be some overlap.

Australia has six introduced species of deer that have established sustainable wild populations from acclimatisation society releases in the 19th century. These are the fallow deer, red deer, sambar, hog deer, rusa, and chital. Red deer introduced into New Zealand in 1851 from English and Scottish stock were domesticated in deer farms by the late 1960s and are common farm animals there now. Seven other species of deer were introduced into New Zealand but none are as widespread as red deer.[7]

Biology[edit]

Tails of I) white-tailed deer, II) mule deer, III) black-tailed deer, IV) elk, V) red deer.
Baby fawn's first steps

Deer weights generally range from 30 to 300 kg (70 to 700 lb), though the smallest species, the northern pudú, averages 10 kg (20 lb) and the largest, the moose, averages 431 kg (1,000 lb). They generally have lithe, compact bodies and long, powerful legs suited for rugged woodland terrain. Deer are also excellent jumpers and swimmers. Deer are ruminants, or cud-chewers, and have a four-chambered stomach. The teeth of deer are adapted to feeding on vegetation, and like other ruminants, they lack upper incisors, instead having a tough pad at the front of their upper jaw. Some deer, such as those on the island of Rùm,[8] do consume meat when it is available.[9]

The Chinese water deer, tufted deer, and muntjac have enlarged upper canine teeth forming sharp tusks, while other species often lack upper canines altogether. The cheek teeth of deer have crescent ridges of enamel, which enable them to grind a wide variety of vegetation.[10] The dental formula for deer is: 0.0-1.3.33.1.3.3

Nearly all deer have a facial gland in front of each eye. The gland contains a strongly scented pheromone, used to mark its home range. Bucks of a wide range of species open these glands wide when angry or excited. All deer have a liver without a gallbladder. Deer also have a tapetum lucidum, which gives them sufficiently good night vision.

Female elk nursing young

Nearly all cervids are so-called uniparental species: the fawns are only cared for by the mother. A doe generally has one or two fawns at a time (triplets, while not unknown, are uncommon). The gestation period is anywhere up to ten months for the European roe deer. Most fawns are born with their fur covered with white spots, though in many species they lose these spots by the end of their first winter. In the first twenty minutes of a fawn's life, the fawn begins to take its first steps. Its mother licks it clean until it is almost free of scent, so predators will not find it. Its mother leaves often, and the fawn does not like to be left behind. Sometimes its mother must gently push it down with her foot.[11] The fawn stays hidden in the grass for one week until it is strong enough to walk with its mother. The fawn and its mother stay together for about one year. A male usually never sees his mother again, but females sometimes come back with their own fawns and form small herds.

Fawn

Deer are selective feeders. They are usually browsers, and primarily feed on leaves. They have small, unspecialized stomachs by ruminant standards, and high nutrition requirements. Rather than attempt to digest vast quantities of low-grade, fibrous food as, for example, sheep and cattle do, deer select easily digestible shoots, young leaves, fresh grasses, soft twigs, fruit, fungi, and lichens.

Reproduction[edit]

Antlers[edit]

With the exception of the Chinese water deer, which have tusks, all male deer have antlers. Sometimes a female will have a small stub. The only female deer with antlers are reindeer (caribou). Antlers grow as highly vascular spongy tissue covered in a skin called velvet. Before the beginning of a species' mating season, the antlers calcify under the velvet and become hard bone. The velvet is then rubbed off leaving dead bone which forms the hard antlers. After the mating season, the pedicle and the antler base are separated by a layer of softer tissue, and the antler falls off.

One way that many hunters are able to track main paths that the deer travel on is because of their "rubs". A rub is used to deposit scent from glands near the eye and forehead and physically mark territory.

During the mating season, bucks use their antlers to fight one another for the opportunity to attract mates in a given herd. The two bucks circle each other, bend back their legs, lower their heads, and charge. The tines on the antlers create grooves that allow another male's weapon to lock into place. This allows the males to wrestle without risking injury to the face.[12]

Antlers are also a sign of genetic quality. Males with larger antlers relative to body size tend to have increased resistance to pathogens [13] and higher reproductive capacity.[14] Necropsy research on wild deer that were killed and eaten by wolves shows that deer with asymmetric antlers are weakened by genetic defects and are less likely to escape being caught by predators.[citation needed]

Each species has its own characteristic antler structure – for example white-tailed deer antlers include a series of tines sprouting upward from a forward-curving main beam, while fallow deer and moose antlers are palmate, with a broad central portion. Mule deer and black-tailed deer, species within the same genus as the white-tailed deer, instead have bifurcated (or branched) antlers—that is, the main beam splits into two, each of which may split into two more.[15] Young males of many deer, and the adults of some species, such as brocket deer and pudus, have antlers which are single spikes.

Cervocerus novorossiae

Colour[edit]

Piebald deer[edit]

Piebald fawn
Piebald doe

A piebald deer is a deer with a brown and white spotting pattern that is not caused by parasites or diseases. They can appear to be almost entirely white. In addition to the non-standard coloration, other differences have been observed: bowing or Roman nose, overly arched spine (scoliosis), long tails, short legs, and underbites.

White deer[edit]

Seneca County, New York maintains the largest herd of white deer. White pigmented white-tailed deer began populating the deer population in the area now known as the Conservation Area of the former Seneca Army Depot. The U.S. Army gave the white deer protection while managing the normal colored deer through hunting. The white deer coloration is the result of a recessive gene.

White fallow deer near Argonne National Labs in northern Illinois, USA.

There is a herd of white fallow deer located near Argonne National Laboratories in northern Illinois.[16]

White tail fawns are born a brown or tan color with a spotted white pattern. Sometimes these fawns can be born with a grey appearance, making them seem dirty. The coats then become pure white in the middle of their second year, sometimes mistaken for albino deer.

Albino whitetail deer appear to have pink skin with a pure white coat, and the irises are usually pink as well. There is no such thing as a partial albino, true albino deer have little or no melanin in their bodies. Their color is mainly white because it lacks any pigments, making the skin appear pink because the flowing blood can be seen through the skin. Their white coats make them especially vulnerable to predators. [17]

Evolution[edit]

The earliest fossil deer date from the Oligocene of Europe,[citation needed] and resembled the modern muntjacs. Later species were often larger, with more impressive antlers, and, in many cases, no upper canine teeth. They rapidly spread to the other continents, even for a time occupying much of northern Africa, where they are now almost wholly absent. Some extinct deer had huge antlers, larger than those of any living species. Examples include Eucladoceros, and the giant deer Megaloceros, whose antlers stretched to 3.5 metres across.

Syndyocera was one of the first animals considered to be related to the deer, sharing similar features common with the deer, horse, giraffe, and antelope. Fossils dated approximately 35 million years ago that were found in North America show it had bony skull outgrowths that resembled non-deciduous antlers. Another animal also thought to be related to the deer is the world's oldest known antler-shedding deer, Dicrocerus elegans. This animal's sediment deposits are found in European soil dating back to between 15–30 million years ago.[18] Yet another distant ancestor is thought to be Archaeomeryx.[citation needed]

Taxonomy[edit]

Note that the terms indicate the origin of the groups, not their modern distribution: the water deer, for example, is a New World species but is found only in China and Korea.

It is thought that the new world group originates from the forests of North America and Siberia, the old world deer in Asia.

Extant subfamilies, genera and species[edit]

The deer family has at least 90 species; The list is based on the studies of Randi, Mucci, Claro-Hergueta, Bonnet and Douzery (2001); Pitraa, Fickela, Meijaard, Groves (2004); Ludt, Schroeder, Rottmann and Kuehn (2004); Hernandez-Fernandez and Vrba (2005); Groves (2006); Ruiz-Garcia, M., Randi, E., Martinez-Aguero, M. and Alvarez D. (2007); Duarte, J.M.B., Gonzalez, S. and Maldonado, J.E. (2008); Groves and Grubb (2011)[19] The family Cervidae is organized as follows:

  • Subfamily Cervinae (Old World (plesiometacarpal) deer)
Tufted deer, along with other muntjacs and the water deer, are the only living cervids with tusks
Père David's deer is an extremely endangered species, and extinct in the wild
Moose, the largest species of deer
Pudú, the smallest species of deer

Extinct subfamilies, genera and species[edit]

The following is the classification of extinct cervids only, as well as including living lineages that have some species known from the fossil record or that have become extinct.

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

Irish elk, one of the largest cervids ever.
    • Tribe Muntiacini (Muntjacs)
      • Genus Dicrocerus
        • Dicrocerus elegans
        • Dicrocerus furcatus
        • Dicrocerus necatus
        • Dicrocerus teres
        • Dicrocerus trilateralis
      • Genus Euprox
        • Euprox robustus
        • Euprox dicranocerus
        • Euprox fulcatus
      • Genus Stephanocemas
        • Stephanocemas colberti
        • Stephanocemas colbert
        • Stephanocemas thomsoni
        • Stephanocemas elegantulus
        • Stephanocemas chinghaiensis
        • Stephanocemas triacuminatus
      • Genus Paracervulus
        • Paracervulus australis
      • Genus Muntiacus
        • Muntiacus leilaoensis
        • Muntiacus polonicus
        • Muntiacus pliocaenicus
    • Tribe Cervini ("true" deer)
  • Subfamily Capreolinae (New World (telemetecarpal) deer)
Stag-moose was the largest cervid ever to live

Hybrid deer[edit]

In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin wrote "Although I do not know of any thoroughly well-authenticated cases of perfectly fertile hybrid animals, I have some reason to believe that the hybrids from Cervulus vaginalis and Reevesii [...] are perfectly fertile." These two varieties of muntjac are currently considered the same species.

A number of deer hybrids are bred to improve meat yield in farmed deer. American elk (or wapiti) and Red Deer from the Old World can produce fertile offspring in captivity, and were once considered one species. Hybrid offspring, however, must be able to escape and defend themselves against predators, and these hybrid offspring are unable to do so in the wild state. Recent DNA, animal behavior studies, and morphology and antler characteristics have shown there are not one but three species of Red Deer: European red deer, Central Asian red deer, and American elk. The European elk is a different species and is known as moose in North America. The hybrids are about 30% more efficient in producing antlers by comparing velvet to body weight. Wapiti have been introduced into some European red deer herds to improve the Red Deer type, but not always with the intended improvement.

In New Zealand, where deer are introduced species, there are hybrid zones between red deer and North American wapiti populations and also between red deer and sika deer populations. In New Zealand, red deer have been artificially hybridized with Père David deer in order to create a farmed deer that gives birth in spring. The initial hybrids were created by artificial insemination and back-crossed to red deer. However, such hybrid offspring can only survive in captivity free of predators.

In Canada, the farming of European red deer and red deer hybrids is considered a threat to native wapiti. In Britain, the introduced sika deer is considered a threat to native red deer. Initial sika deer/red deer hybrids occur when young sika stags expand their range into established red deer areas and have no sika hinds to mate with. They mate instead with young red hinds and produce fertile hybrids. These hybrids mate with either sika or red deer (depending which species is prevalent in the area), resulting in mongrelization. Many of the sika deer that escaped from British parks were probably already hybrids for this reason. These hybrids do not properly inherit survival strategies and can only survive in either a captive state or when there are no predators.

In captivity, mule deer have been mated to white-tail deer. Both male mule deer/female white-tailed deer and male white-tailed deer/female mule deer matings have produced hybrids. Less than 50% of the hybrid fawns survived their first few months. Hybrids have been reported in the wild but are disadvantaged because they don't properly inherit survival strategies. Mule deer move with bounding leaps (all four hooves hit the ground at once, also called "stotting") to escape predators. Stotting is so specialized that only 100% genetically pure mule deer seem able to do it. In captive hybrids, even a one-eighth white-tail/seven-eighths mule deer hybrid has an erratic escape behaviour and would be unlikely to survive to breeding age.[citation needed] Hybrids do survive on game ranches where both species are kept and where predators are controlled by man.

Cultural significance[edit]

Heraldry[edit]

Deer are represented in heraldry by the stag or hart, or less often, by the hind, and the brocket (a young stag up to two years), respectively. Stag's heads and antlers also appear as charges. The old name for deer was simply cerf, and it is chiefly the head that appears on the ancient arms. Examples of deer in coats of arms can be found in the arms of Hertfordshire, England, and its county town of Hertford; both are examples of canting arms, and also in the coat of arms of Northern Ireland.

Several Norwegian municipalities have a stag or stag's head in their arms: Gjemnes, Hitra, Hjartdal, Rendalen and Voss. A deer appears on the arms of the Israeli Postal Authority (see Hebrew language Wikipedia page).[22]

"Nature and Appearance of Deer, and how they can be hunted with dogs", taken from Livre du Roy Modus, created in the 14th century

Literature and art[edit]

Economic significance[edit]

Nicholas Mavrogenes, Phanariote Prince of Wallachia, riding through Bucharest in a deer−drawn carriage (late 1780s)

Deer have long had economic significance to humans. Deer meat, for which they are hunted and farmed, is called venison. Deer organ meat is called humble (see humble pie). The skins make a peculiarly strong, soft leather, known as buckskin. There is nothing special about skins with the fur on since the hair is brittle and soon falls off. The hoofs and horns are used for ornamental purposes, especially the antlers of the roe deer, which are utilized for making umbrella handles, and for similar purposes; elk horn is often employed in making knife handles. In China, a medicine is made from stag horn, and the antlers of certain species are eaten when "in the velvet".[24]

Deer have long been bred in captivity as ornaments for parks, but only in the case of reindeer has thorough domestication succeeded.[24] The Sami of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula of Russia and other nomadic peoples of northern Asia use reindeer for food, clothing, and transport.

The caribou in North America is not domesticated or herded as is the case of reindeer (the same species). Reindeer are often found in colder regions in Europe, but is important as a quarry animal to the Inuit. Most commercial venison in the United States is imported from New Zealand.

Deer were originally brought to New Zealand by European settlers, and the deer population rose rapidly. This caused great environmental damage and was controlled by hunting and poisoning until the concept of deer farming developed in the 1960s. Deer farming has advanced into a significant economic activity in New Zealand with more than 3,000 farms running over 1 million deer in total. Deer products are exported to over 50 countries around the world, with New Zealand becoming well recognised as a source of quality venison and co-products.

White-tailed deer hunted in Accomack, Virginia

Automobile collisions with deer can impose a significant cost on the economy. In the U.S., about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cause about 150 human deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage annually.[25] In Scotland, several roads including the A82, the A87 and the A835 have had significant enough problems with deer vehicle collisions (DVCs) that sets of vehicle activated automatic warning signs have been installed along these roads.[26]

The sight of deer standing motionless, caught in headlights gives rise to the phrase "deer in the headlights".

In some areas of the UK, deer (especially fallow deer due to their gregarious behaviour), have been implicated as a possible reservoir for transmission of bovine tuberculosis,[27][28] a disease which in the UK in 2005 cost £90 million in attempts to eradicate.[29] In New Zealand, deer are thought to be important as vectors picking up M. bovis in areas where brushtail possums, (Trichosurus vulpecula), are infected, and transferring it to previously uninfected possums when their carcasses are scavenged elsewhere.[30] The white-tailed deer, (Odocoileus virginianus), has been confirmed as the sole maintenance host in the Michigan outbreak of bovine tuberculosis which remains a significant barrier to the US nationwide eradication of the disease in livestock. In 2008, 733,998 licensed deer hunters harvested approximately 489,922 white-tailed deer in attempts to control the deer population and disease spread. These hunters purchased more than 1.5 million deer harvest tags. The economic value of deer hunting to Michigan’s economy is substantial. For example, in 2006, hunters spent US$507 million hunting white-tailed deer in Michigan.[31]

Deer hunting is a popular activity in the U.S. and generates revenue for states and the federal government from the sales of licenses, permits and tags. The 2006 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that license sales generate approximately $700 million annually. This revenue generally goes to support conservation efforts in the states where the licenses are purchased. Overall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that big game hunting for deer and elk generates approximately $11.8 billion annually in hunting-related travel, equipment and related expenditures.[32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "deer". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000. Archived from the original on 25 March 2004. 
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Online Etymology Dictionary – Deer". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  3. ^ OED, s.v. "hart" and "hind"
  4. ^ "Havier". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  5. ^ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/venison
  6. ^ Bull, Gregory Simon (2007). Marketing fresh venison in the Eastern Cape Province using a niche marketing strategy (M.Tech). Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. p. xcix. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "Deer" - Te Ara: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966
  8. ^ Owen, James (25 August 2003). "Scottish Deer Are Culprits in Bird Killings". National Geographic News. Retrieved 16 June 2009. 
  9. ^ Dale, Michael (1988). "Carnivorous Deer". Omni Magazine: 31. 
  10. ^ Cockerill, Rosemary (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 520–529. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  11. ^ Deer – info and games Sheppard Software.
  12. ^ Emlen, D. J. 2008. The Evolution of Animal Weapons. The Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 39:387-413.
  13. ^ Ditchkoff, S. S., R. L. Lochmiller, R. E. Masters, S. R. Hoofer, R. A. Van Den Bussche. 2001. Major-histocompatibility-complex-associated variation in secondary sexual traits of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianua) evidence for good-genes advertisement. Evolution. 55:616-625.
  14. ^ Malo, A. F., E. R. S. Roldan, J. Garde, A. J. Soler, M. Gomendio. 2005. Antlers honestly advertise sperm production and quality. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences. 272:149-157.
  15. ^ Oregon Big Game Regulations[dead link]. dfw.state.or.us
  16. ^ Herd of white deer roams Argonne campus
  17. ^ Severt, Jim (25 July 2003). "Coats of many colors". Deer Farmers' Information Network. 
  18. ^ "Natural History of Deer". Wildlife Online. 27 August 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  19. ^ Ungulate Taxonomy – A new perspective from Groves and Grubb (2011). ultimateungulate.com
  20. ^ a b Pitraa, Fickela, Meijaard, Groves (2004`). "Evolution and phylogeny of old world deer". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 880–895. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.07.013. PMID 15522810. 
  21. ^ Duarte, J. M. B., González, S. and Maldonado, J. E. (2008). "The surprising evolutionary history of South American deer". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 49 (1): 17–22. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.07.009. PMID 18675919. [dead link]
  22. ^ "דואר ישראל – ויקיפדיה" (in (Hebrew)). He.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  23. ^ Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum (1997) The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0500018022.
  24. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Deer". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  25. ^ "Worst states for auto-deer crashes". CNN.com. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  26. ^ North West Area: Vehicle Activated Deer Warning Signs. Transport Scotland. April 2010. 07/NW/0805/046. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  27. ^ Delahay, R.J., Smith, G.C., Barlow, A.M., Walker, N., Harris, A., Clifton-Hadley, R.S. and Cheeseman, C.L. (2007). "Bovine tuberculosis infection in wild mammals in the South-West region of England: A survey of prevalence and a semi-quantitative assessment of the relative risks to cattle". The Veterinary Journal 173 (2): 287–301. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2005.11.011. PMID 16434219. 
  28. ^ Ward, A.I., Smith, G.C., Etherington, T.R. and Delahay, R.J. (2009). "Estimating the risk of cattle exposure to tuberculosis posed by wild deer relative to badgers in England and Wales". Journal of Wildlife Diseases 45 (4): 1104–1120. PMID 19901384. 
  29. ^ Anonymous (2008). "Bovine TB: EFRACom calls for a multifaceted approach using all available methods". The Veterinary Record 162 (9): 258–259. doi:10.1136/vr.162.9.258. PMID 18350673. 
  30. ^ Delahay, R.J., De Leeuw, A.N.S., Barlow, A.M., Clifton-Hadley, R.S. and Cheeseman, C.L. (2002). "The status of Mycobacterium bovis infection in UK wild mammals: A review". The Veterinary Journal 164 (2): 90–105. doi:10.1053/tvjl.2001.0667. PMID 12359464. 
  31. ^ O’Brien, D.J., Schmitt, S.M., Fitzgerald, S.D. and Berry, D.E. (2011). "Management of bovine tuberculosis in Michigan wildlife: Current status and near term prospects". Veterinary Microbiology 151 (1–2): 179–187. doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2011.02.042. PMID 21414734. 
  32. ^ "U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

Deerland: America's Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness by Al Cambronne, Lyons Press (2013), ISBN 978-0-7627-8027-3

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!