Known as an Irish moose or giant deer, no matter what we call it, this enormous and graceful creature from the Ice Age is the largest deer on our planet. Part of the Megaloceros family, the giant deer ruled all over Eurasia from Ireland to Lake Baikal in the late Pleistocene.
The latest fossils of Megaloceros giganteus are dated to the carbon method of only 7 700 years. In fact, although a large number of skeletons of the giant deer are found in the marshes in Ireland, its common name until recently Irish moose is misleading. Firstly, because it is not only found in Ireland, and secondly because it is a closer relative to the deer today than to the losos.
However, it is good to note that the richest collection of fossils of Megaloceros giganteus is, of course, in the Museum of Natural History in Dublin, Ireland 🙂
It seems that the giant deer appeared for the first time about 400,000 years ago as an evolved species from the deer Megaloceros antecedens, which is sometimes even considered by the scientists to be a palaeo subtype of the giant deer. This prehistoric stag was of a similar structure, but with more compact horns. As a body size, Megaloceros giganteus shows a great resemblance to the subspecies of the largest existing elk – those in Allas alces gigas …
But not his body, but the horns of the giant deer are one of the wonders of Nature that disappeared after the end of the last Ice Age.
At a height of about 2.1 meters at the shoulders, this deer wore huge, branched horns, reaching a distance of 3.65 meters between their tops!
And, logically, these huge horns were extremely heavy – up to 40 kg. No doubt the giant stag was a magnificent and beautiful view of the ancient deciduous and coniferous forests of Eurasia.
The size of the horns of the giant deer is simply amazing. No wonder there are a few theories how they have reached these dimensions.
One of the theories states that this is an evolutionary process during the breeding season, in which the size and strength of the horns provided the indisputable superiority of the males to their rivals.
Another theory puts it exactly the opposite view: that these dimensions are a random evolutionary outcome that has made it so difficult for the deer to exist that it has led to its disappearance.
The various theories have not been subjected to rigorous testing until 1974, when Stephen Jay Gould wrote his celebrity essay among the zoologists and paleontologists for the Megaloceros.
It proves that, as a whole, the deer with a larger body have larger horns, and this is a proportional dependence on species development – a fact clearly demonstrated by the specific data of the altitude (proportion of the proportions statistics in biology).
According to these statistical studies, the horns of the giant deer are exactly … as large as the size of his body suggests. Which does not mean that the breeding theory is wrong, but simply that it is not the decisive reason that the most impressive deer in the history of the animal species on Earth is what the paleontologists have shown.
Unlike other deer, the giant deer did not even need to turn his head to make the most of their effect and power. It was enough to keep your head straight ahead – for the rest, Nature took care of it perfectly.
The discussion of the reasons for the gradual disappearance of the giant deer focuses on its huge horns more often than on its unusual growth. Some believe that people have “contributed” to his disappearance with his ruthless pursuit of food (as has probably happened with other prehistoric beasts of the Ice Age megafauna).
It is supposed that his huge horns have made him an easier prey in the dense forests because of his slower movement. But the evidence of this “prehistoric extermination” of the giant deer is rather ambiguous and controversial. Especially given the undisputed evidence of keeping the species in different places in Eurasia relatively soon. Which is a sign that the giant deer has adapted well both to the conditions of the last Ice Age and to the
to those before and after …
More recent theories state that the problem of the disappearance of these deer might lie in the higher levels of calcium and phosphorus needed to build the bone system and their horns. The problem was very serious about the males who suffered from something like osteoporosis.
But this is also a controversial theory. Climate change occurred
in the last Ice Age, suggest that there was an abundance of suitable for giant deer and useful substances (at least in the western part of their range). The latest studies of the Megaloceros giganteus fossils found in North Siberia at about 8,800 years do not show any signs of malnutrition or lack of minerals. Fossils have been found in a continental-climate region where there is no occurrence