Relaxed phylogenetics and dating with
The Cervidae holds two subfamilies: the Old World deer of the Cervinae and the New World deer of the Capreolinae.Within the Cervinae sit two tribes: the Cervini (“true deer”) and the Muntiancini (muntjacs).I don’t wish to get too tied up in the debates over which are valid subspecies and why, but I will briefly cover the story of the subspecies considered by many to be the native stock of Britain: about the geographic races of Red deer.In the paper Dr Lönnberg compared the skull anatomy of Red deer collected from various parts of its range and proposed several of the 12-or-so subspecies still in contention today.However, more recently, several studies have suggested that there may be far fewer than 12 subspecies and have cast doubt on the validity of the Scottish Red as a valid subspecies.In a major review of Red deer taxonomy published in the exhibits a high degree of morphological similarity between the animals across their range.The findings of Dr Pitra and his colleagues require additional study and no such split has been widely accepted.The terrific variation observed in Red deer throughout their range has lead to the description of many potential subspecies.
I won’t go into much detail about the findings here, but suffice to say that Dr Pitra and his team found molecular evidence to suggest that Red deer from Central Asia and those from North Africa and Corsica-Sardinia may represent species as distinct from , respectively).Work by taxonomists from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s led to the splitting of wapiti and Red deer based on data from skeletal measurements, protein assays and haemoglobin morphology.However, in their review of the situation in 1989, Patrick Lowe and Andrew Gardiner concluded that, from their analysis of nearly 300 deer skulls, although some morphological variation exists supporting the separation at the during 2004, by Technical University Munich-Weihenstephan (in Germany) taxonomist Christian Ludt and three colleagues, looked at a particular gene carried on the mt DNA of 51 populations of deer spanning the entire distribution of (henceforth referred to as the Red deer).to produce fertile offspring -- with contiguous populations of Red deer.Consequently, many scientists prefer to think of as a “superspecies” or “ring species”, containing a number of very closely-related animals that can all be considered Red deer. The idea that Red deer and wapiti are distinct species is not a new one; some of the first suggestions were made in 1737 and wapitis were first elevated to the species level by German naturalist Georg Heinrich Borowski in 1780.
In 1806 Pennsylvanian-born naturalist and physician Benjamin Smith Barton suggested that North American elk and Red deer from Europe were sufficiently different to be considered different species and proposed the name wapiti, meaning “white rump”, for the North American elk.