Project 2083: C. Kolb, T. M. Scheyer, A. M. Lister, C. Azorit, J. de Vos, M. A. J. Schlingemann, G. Rössner, N. T. Monaghan, M. R. Sánchez-Villagra. 2015. Growth in fossil and recent deer and implications for body size and life history evolution. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 15 (19):1-15.
Specimen: Dama dama (:PIMUZ A/V 5249)
View: Bone tissue


Body size variation within clades of mammals is widespread, but the developmental and life-history mechanisms by which this variation is achieved are poorly understood, especially in extinct forms. An illustrative case study is that of the dwarfed morphotypes of Candiacervus from the Pleistocene of Crete versus the giant deer Megaloceros giganteus, both in a clade together with Dama dama among extant species. Histological analyses of long bones and teeth in a phylogenetic context have been shown to provide reliable estimates of growth and life history patterns in extant and extinct mammals.

Similarity of bone tissue types across the eight species examined indicates a comparable mode of growth in deer, with long bones mainly possessing primary plexiform fibrolamellar bone. Low absolute growth rates characterize dwarf Candiacervus sp. II and C. ropalophorus compared to Megaloceros giganteus displaying high rates, whereas Dama dama is characterized by intermediate to low growth rates. The lowest recorded rates are those of the Miocene small stem cervid Procervulus praelucidus. Skeletal maturity estimates indicate late attainment in sampled Candiacervus and Procervulus praelucidus. Tooth cementum analysis of first molars of two senile Megaloceros giganteus specimens revealed ages of 16 and 19 years whereas two old dwarf Candiacervus specimens gave ages of 12 and 18 years.

There is a rich histological record of growth across deer species recorded in long bones and teeth, which can be used to understand ontogenetic patterns within species and phylogenetic ones across species. Mean maximum growth rates plotted against the anteroposterior bone diameter as a proxy for body mass indicate three groups: one with high growth rates including Megaloceros, Cervus, Alces, and Dama; an intermediate group with Capreolus and Muntiacus; and a group showing low growth rates, including dwarf Candiacervus and Procervulus. Dwarf Candiacervus, in an allometric context, show an extended lifespan compared to other deer of similar body size such as Mazama which has a maximum longevity of 12 years in the wild. Comparison with other clades of mammals reveals that changes in size and life history in evolution have occurred in parallel, with various modes of skeletal tissue modification.

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Article DOI: 10.1186/s12862-015-0295-3

Project DOI: 10.7934/P2083,
This project contains
  • 18 Media
  • 6 Documents
  • 9 Taxa
  • 16 Specimens
Total size of project's media files: 104.61M

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MorphoBank Project 2083

    Authors' Institutions

    • Museu de Ciències Naturals, Barcelona

    • Canadian Food Inspection Agency

    • Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF), Barcelona


    member name taxa specimens media media
    Christian Kolb
    Project Administrator
    Last logged in 03/06/15
    Maureen Admin
    Full membership
    Last logged in 01/24/20
    MorphoBank Curator
    Full membership
    Last logged in 05/05/15

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    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project309
    Document downloads38Figure S1. Femoral bone cortex of Dama and Procervulus. (14 downloads); Figure 2. Histological growth series of dwarf deer femora with skeletal reconstructions (modified from van der Geer et al. 2006) and specimens sampled (anterior view). (4 downloads); Figure 3. Cervid bone tissue and growth marks. (2 downloads); Figure 4. Bone cortex of Megaloceros giganteus. (14 downloads); Figure 5. Cervid bone remodelling. (2 downloads); Figure 8. Cervid tooth histology. (2 downloads);
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    Media downloads2M374383 (2 downloads);