Temporal range: Middle Pleistocene to Early Holocene, 0.781–0.008Ma
|Mounted skeleton in Bremen|
The Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus), was a species of Megaloceros and one of the largest deer that ever lived. Its range extended across Eurasia, from Ireland to northern Asia and Africa, but a related form is recorded from China. during the Late Pleistocene. The most recent remains of the species have been carbon dated to about 7,700 years ago in Siberia. Although most skeletons have been found in Irish bogs, the animal was not exclusively Irish and was not closely related to either of the living species currently called elk - Alces alces (the European elk, known in North America as the moose) or Cervus canadensis (the North American elk or wapiti). Recent phylogenetic analyses support the idea of a sister-group relationship between fallow deer and the Irish Elk. For this reason, the name "Giant Deer" is used in some publications.
The Irish Elk stood about 2.1 metres (6.9 ft) tall at the shoulders carrying the largest antlers of any known cervid (a maximum of 3.65 m (12.0 ft) from tip to tip and weighing up to 40 kg (88 lb)). In body size, the Irish Elk matched the extant moose subspecies of Alaska (Alces alces gigas) as the largest known deer. The Irish Elk is estimated to have attained a total mass of 540–600 kg (1,190–1,320 lb), with large specimens having weighed 700 kg (1,500 lb) or more, roughly similar to the Alaskan Moose. A significant collection of M. giganteus skeletons can be found at the Natural History Museum in Dublin.
Physically, the Irish Elk is the heaviest known member of the “Old World deer”, a division of the subfamily Cervinae whose groups the ”Old World deer” and “New World deer” are distinguished by foot structure rather than geographical origin.[verification needed]
- Geist, Valerius (1998): Megaloceros: The Ice Age Giant and Its Living Relatives. In: Deer of the World. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0496-3
- Lister, A.M. (1987): Megaceros or Megaloceros? The nomenclature of the giant deer. Quaternary Newsletter 52: 14-16.
- Gould, S.J. "The misnamed, mistreated, and misunderstood Irish elk.". W.W. Norton.
- 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
- Lister, A. M.; Edwards, C. J.; Nock, D. A. W.; Bunce, M.; van Pijlen, I. A.; Bradley, D. G.; Thomas, M. G.; Barnes, I. (2005). "The phylogenetic position of the giant deer Megaloceros giganteus". Nature 438 (7069): 850–853. doi:10.1038/nature04134.
- van der Made, J.; Tong, H.W. (2008). "Phylogeny of the giant deer with palmate brow tines Megaloceros from west and Sinomegaceros from east Eurasia". Quaternary International 179 (1): 135–162. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2007.08.017.
- R. D. E. Mc Phee, Extinctions in Near Time: Causes, Contexts, and Consequences p.262
- 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 (based on the aforementioned old German schelch) 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Megaloceros giganteus.|
- "Extinct Giant Deer Survived Ice Age, Study Says". N.Geographic.
- "CGI picture from "Walking with Beasts"". Discovery Channel. Retrieved February 14, 2006.
- "Megaloceros, Irish elk, Giant deer". BBC. Retrieved October 25, 2005.
- "The Case of the Irish Elk". University of California at Berkeley. Retrieved October 25, 2005.