The bighorn deer is the largest representative of the deer family
Although the big-eared deer has long been extinct, itsimage, restored on the basis of archaeological finds, and now admires, and amazes. The greatest interest is caused by its large horns. No, and there never was a second such deer in the world!
The giant deer (lat. Megaloceros giganteus) because of its huge horns is also called the Irish moose. This species of extinct mammal belonged to a family of reindeer (Latin Cervidae), a group of cloven-hoofed animals, a suborder of ruminants (Latin Ruminantia). This is one of the largest deer that ever lived on Earth.
Because of the shovel-shaped horns, this extinct speciesgiant deer from the very beginning was considered a close relative of moose and modern deer. Later morphological and molecular studies have proved his relationship to the present Canadian deer (Latin Cervus elaphus canadensis) and the red deer (Latin Cervus elaphus). Only recent genetic studies have confirmed definitively that the closest relative of Megaloceros giganteus, in fact, is the European fallow deer.
Giant megaloceras: the origin
Archaeological research shows thatMegaloceros giganteus lived in Northern Europe and Northern Asia (inhabiting almost all of Eurasia: from Ireland to Lake Baikal), as well as on the northern outskirts of Africa. Most of the fossil remains of the animal were found in the marshes of present-day Ireland, hence its second name is the Irish moose. We add that the term "moose" entrenched after him because of the external similarity of the horns. Several skeletons of this giant were found on the territory of our country (Crimea, the North Caucasus, Sverdlovsk and Ryazan regions).
These prehistoric animals lived at the endPleistocene and early Holocene, that is, in the period from 400 thousand to 7,700 years ago. Megaloceros giganteus probably belonged to the so-called Pleistocene megafauna and early Holocene. Next to him lived in particular saber-toothed tigers, bears and cave lions, smilodons, as well as mammoths and hairy rhinoceros, who together with him were the group of the largest herbivores of that period.
Description of the giant animal
Dimensions of the greater than the deer significantly exceededthe size of modern deer. In its appearance, it was more like a well-known moose. Strong physique is more a pattern than an exception. There is nothing surprising in it, because the animal had to carry its huge horns, and this requires a mountain of muscles and strong bones. His body structure was similar to the Alaskan moose (Latin Alces alces gigas), which is now considered the largest living species of the genus. The tallhorn deer reached about 2.1 m in height at the withers. Despite its huge size, it fed the same food as today's deer. From the rock paintings created by the ancient people of the Pleistocene and Holocene epoch, it is clear that they often met with this giant and even hunted him.
Horns of giant deer
Impressive giant deer horns had a swingabout three meters. Found in the archaeological excavations, the largest horns of this deer, reached 3.65 m, and weighed almost 40 kg! This fact is so unusual and unique that even several different theories of their evolution have appeared. Some scientists hold the opinion that such horns in an animal are the result of a strict natural selection. Males actively used formations on their heads in the struggle for the attention of females. Thus, only the largest and strongest individuals survived and gave offspring.
According to another theory, the Irish deer died outbecause of their horns. They at some point reached a very cumbersome size and began to interfere with the usual way of life. The reason for the extinction of the species scientists call the onset of the forest in the open spaces on which it probably inhabited. Horns interfered with the animal during passage through dense thickets and forests, because of this, he often stuck and could not get out. Deer have become easy prey for predators, which eventually exterminated them.
More recent research
This evolutionary theory was formulatedscientists for a long time. However, only in 1974, in a study of Megaloceros authorship of Stephen Jay Gould, it was considered in more detail. He proved that the big-horned deer had really big and disproportionate horns. This, probably, was the result of allometry, that is, uneven growth. As a result, the proportions of the body were violated.
Gould discovered that the large size of the horns and in generalthe possibility of their appearance in Megaloceros giganteus was due to evolutionary selection. However, the horns, in his opinion, were poorly suited for rival battles between the males of this extinct species. Probably, they served only to intimidate rivals. Apparently, unlike other deer, Megaloceros giganteus could not even turn his head to demonstrate his superiority. It was enough that he stood and looked in front of him. In 1987, another scientist, Kitchener, provided evidence that these prehistoric animals sometimes used their huge horns for battles with male rivals.