Posts tagged elk

Reindeer and Elk

It’s actually a reindeer and an elk this time! Well, a wapiti and a reindeer, according to Jardine. The term “wapiti” is not uncommon these days, though “elk” is not considered “correct” terminology for the moose (Alces alces), at least within North America. It gets confusing when you get to Europe, though.

"Wapiti" comes from the Shawnee and Cree word "waapiti", meaning "white rump".

The Naturalist’s Library: Vol XXI. Sir William Jardine, 1799-1800.

Top: Fossil Megaloceros giganteus with grown man for comparison.

Bottom: Approximation of Megaloceros giganteus in continental European environment.

The Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus), which wasn’t really an elk at all, wasn’t actually “Irish”, either. Though its fossils have been extensively preserved in the Irish peat bogs, and were first found in Ireland, this cervid lived throughout Eurasia, all the way east to Lake Baikal.

Their proposed extinction during the last major ice age has been disputed recently, with the dating of more recent bone caches. The current date that’s generally accepted for their (effective) extinction is around 7600 years ago.

Extinct Monsters. A Popular Account of Some of the Larger Forms of Ancient Animal Life. Rev. H. N. Hutchinson, 1896.

Essay on the Theory of the Earth. Baron Georges Cuvier, 1827.

Reindeer and Elk

It’s actually a reindeer and an elk this time! Well, a wapiti and a reindeer, according to Jardine. The term “wapiti” is not uncommon these days, though “elk” is not considered “correct” terminology for the moose, at least.

"Wapiti" comes from the Shawnee and Cree word "waapiti", meaning "white rump".

The Naturalist’s Library: Vol XXI. Sir William Jardine, 1799-1800.

The Elk (Cervus canadensis)  (Alces alces) and the Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)
Though the reindeer (or caribou) was long known to be a distinct species of holarctic  deer, the elk (or wapiti) was thought to be a subspecies of the European red deer until quite recently. To confuse things even more, the early European explorers thought that the elk was a subspecies of moose, leading to the word “elk” meaning moose in much of Europe. If that’s not enough, elk (Cervus canadensis) exist throughout Siberia and in Manchuria and Mongolia, but are known as “maral” in most regions, because of confusion with the East European red deer (Cervus elaphus maral), and the Mongolian subspecies of elk is known as the Alatai maral, even though it’s since been re-classified as Cervus canadensis sibericus.
Ok, so I apparently did not triple-check this and I put in an “elk” that was really a moose, but I’m gonna go ahead and blame this one on nomenclature.
Well…at least we know what a reindeer is. For their body size, the more southerly subspecies of bull reindeer have the largest antlers of any deer, even outclassing the largest bull moose (though not in overall size). The more northerly reindeer have smaller and more spindly antlers, with fewer prongs. Unlike many deer, the reindeer antlers always grow in two specific directions, and have a very delineated anterior and posterior branch. 
The Handy Natural History. Ernest Protheroe, 1910.

The Elk (Cervus canadensis)  (Alces alces) and the Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)

Though the reindeer (or caribou) was long known to be a distinct species of holarctic  deer, the elk (or wapiti) was thought to be a subspecies of the European red deer until quite recently. To confuse things even more, the early European explorers thought that the elk was a subspecies of moose, leading to the word “elk” meaning moose in much of Europe. If that’s not enough, elk (Cervus canadensis) exist throughout Siberia and in Manchuria and Mongolia, but are known as “maral” in most regions, because of confusion with the East European red deer (Cervus elaphus maral), and the Mongolian subspecies of elk is known as the Alatai maral, even though it’s since been re-classified as Cervus canadensis sibericus.

Ok, so I apparently did not triple-check this and I put in an “elk” that was really a moose, but I’m gonna go ahead and blame this one on nomenclature.

Well…at least we know what a reindeer is. For their body size, the more southerly subspecies of bull reindeer have the largest antlers of any deer, even outclassing the largest bull moose (though not in overall size). The more northerly reindeer have smaller and more spindly antlers, with fewer prongs. Unlike many deer, the reindeer antlers always grow in two specific directions, and have a very delineated anterior and posterior branch.

The Handy Natural History. Ernest Protheroe, 1910.

Cervus alces, the “moose deer”. Cervus alces is the binomial name for the elk these days, and while the moose is also known as the “Eurasian elk”, the accepted binomial is now Alces alces, with several sub-species.
Illustration by Audubon, 1845.

Cervus alces, the “moose deer”. Cervus alces is the binomial name for the elk these days, and while the moose is also known as the “Eurasian elk”, the accepted binomial is now Alces alces, with several sub-species.

Illustration by Audubon, 1845.

skullandbone:

fossil elk and human skeleton

"Fossil elk" was the name given to the "elk" bones found in the Irish peat bogs in the 17th and 18th century. The bones are actually that of a huge species of the genus Megaloceros. They ranged throughout Eurasia, but were best-preserved in the Irish bogs, so were known as the “Irish Elk”. However, they’re more correctly known as the Giant Deer, as their closest living relatives are the fallow deer Dama genus. 
Their body size was just larger than the Alaskan moose subspecies, but their antlers were significantly larger…they were actually large enough that during the season that they grew (they were shed every year, like antlers are wont to do), the deer suffered from severe osteoporosis. 

skullandbone:

fossil elk and human skeleton

"Fossil elk" was the name given to the "elk" bones found in the Irish peat bogs in the 17th and 18th century. The bones are actually that of a huge species of the genus Megaloceros. They ranged throughout Eurasia, but were best-preserved in the Irish bogs, so were known as the “Irish Elk”. However, they’re more correctly known as the Giant Deer, as their closest living relatives are the fallow deer Dama genus. 

Their body size was just larger than the Alaskan moose subspecies, but their antlers were significantly larger…they were actually large enough that during the season that they grew (they were shed every year, like antlers are wont to do), the deer suffered from severe osteoporosis.