Tuesday, 21 July 2009
I was sure that one of my European readers would pipe up with the answer to the skull to the right! Alas, it wasn't the case. Not only is the animal depicted to the right not from the Pleistocene, but it's still around today. Believe it or not, this animal is a deer. Yes, it's a sabre-toothed deer, around and well in the modern world! It's proper name is the Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis), and obviously it doesn't have a name yugcetun.
I'm really sorry I don't have any pictures for myself of this animal, at least none that aren't in books, but here are two from wikimedia that I can share with you all, to give you an idea what the fang-ity deer look like:
What's interesting is that their family, Cervidae, are known as the antlered deer. However, the Chinese Water Deer lacks antlers throughout its life. Even the Tufted Deer, who's antlers sometimes don't protrude through the head-fur, has a more impresive rack than the Chinese Water Deer. They don't represent an especially old group of animals - my phylogeny on my wall doesn't have them having an especially "basal node," - meaning they didn't split off from from the rest of the deer far back in time. In fact, moose are far more 'basal' than the Chinese Water deer.
These atavistic critters give us clues about how deer probably were like before they evolved antlers. They're largely solitary through most of the year, spending their time in association with wetlands, feeding. However, in the rut the males will periodically encounter eachother, where they try to impress other males with the size and symmetry of their tusks. If they're unimpressed, a bout of often bloody fighting with commence, until either a deer is dead, or runs away. Far be it from them to just mess up eachother, periodically, a Chinese Water deer will sometimes seriously gore a dog in China, or in introduced populations in the UK and France.
Here's one for this week!
Cauga una? I have no idea what it is, but I'll find out before next tuesday! :p