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Concept: Moose


Courtship behaviours, frequent among modern insects, have left extremely rare fossil traces. None are known previously for fossil odonatans. Fossil traces of such behaviours are better known among the vertebrates, e.g. the hypertelic antlers of the Pleistocene giant deer Megaloceros giganteus. Here we describe spectacular extremely expanded, pod-like tibiae in males of a platycnemidid damselfly from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Such structures in modern damselflies, help to fend off other suitors as well as attract mating females, increasing the chances of successful mating. Modern Platycnemidinae and Chlorocyphidae convergently acquired similar but less developed structures. The new findings provide suggestive evidence of damselfly courtship behaviour as far back as the mid-Cretaceous. These data show an unexpected morphological disparity in dancing damselfly leg structure, and shed new light on mechanisms of sexual selection involving intra- and intersex reproductive competition during the Cretaceous.

Concepts: Reproduction, Deer, Fertility, Elk, Mating, Moose, Irish Elk, Megaloceros


Twentieth century warming has increased vegetation productivity and shrub cover across northern tundra and treeline regions, but effects on terrestrial wildlife have not been demonstrated on a comparable scale. During this period, Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas) extended their range from the boreal forest into tundra riparian shrub habitat; similar extensions have been observed in Canada (A. a. andersoni) and Eurasia (A. a. alces). Northern moose distribution is thought to be limited by forage availability above the snow in late winter, so the observed increase in shrub habitat could be causing the northward moose establishment, but a previous hypothesis suggested that hunting cessation triggered moose establishment. Here, we use recent changes in shrub cover and empirical relationships between shrub height and growing season temperature to estimate available moose habitat in Arctic Alaska c. 1860. We estimate that riparian shrubs were approximately 1.1 m tall c. 1860, greatly reducing the available forage above the snowpack, compared to 2 m tall in 2009. We believe that increases in riparian shrub habitat after 1860 allowed moose to colonize tundra regions of Alaska hundreds of kilometers north and west of previous distribution limits. The northern shift in the distribution of moose, like that of snowshoe hares, has been in response to the spread of their shrub habitat in the Arctic, but at the same time, herbivores have likely had pronounced impacts on the structure and function of these shrub communities. These northward range shifts are a bellwether for other boreal species and their associated predators.

Concepts: Deer, Alaska, Canada, Norway, Köppen climate classification, Finland, Moose, Tundra


Shrubs have expanded in Arctic ecosystems over the past century, resulting in significant changes to albedo, ecosystem function, and plant community composition. Willow and rock ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus, L. muta) and moose (Alces alces) extensively browse Arctic shrubs, and may influence their architecture, growth, and reproduction. Furthermore, these herbivores may alter forage plants in such a way as to increase the quantity and accessibility of their own food source. We estimated the effect of winter browsing by ptarmigan and moose on an abundant, early-successional willow (Salix alaxensis) in northern Alaska by comparing browsed to unbrowsed branches. Ptarmigan browsed 82-89% of willows and removed 30-39% of buds, depending on study area and year. Moose browsed 17-44% of willows and browsed 39-55% of shoots. Browsing inhibited apical dominance and activated axillary and adventitious buds to produce new vegetative shoots. Ptarmigan- and moose-browsed willow branches produced twice the volume of shoot growth but significantly fewer catkins the following summer compared with unbrowsed willow branches. Shoots on browsed willows were larger and produced 40-60% more buds compared to unbrowsed shoots. This process of shoot production at basal parts of the branch is the mechanism by which willows develop a highly complex “broomed” architecture after several years of browsing. Broomed willows were shorter and more likely to be re-browsed by ptarmigan, but not moose. Ptarmigan likely benefit from the greater quantity and accessibility of buds on previously browsed willows and may increase the carrying capacity of their own habitat. Despite the observed tolerance of willows to browsing, their vertical growth and reproduction were strongly inhibited by moose and ptarmigan. Browsing by these herbivores therefore needs to be considered in future models of shrub expansion in the Arctic.

Concepts: Tree, Alaska, Shrub, Willow, Norway, Shoot, Moose, Catkin


Game meat from animals killed by lead ammunition may expose consumers to lead. We assessed the risk related to lead intake from meat consumption of White-tailed deer and moose killed by lead ammunition and documented the perception of hunters and butchers regarding this potential contamination. Information on cervid meat consumption and risk perception were collected using a mailed self-administrated questionnaire which was addressed to a random sample of Quebec hunters. In parallel, 72 samples of White-tailed deer (n = 35) and moose (n = 37) meats were collected from voluntary hunters and analysed for lead content using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Risk assessment for people consuming lead shot game meat was performed using Monte-Carlo simulations. Mean lead levels in White-tailed deer and moose killed by lead ammunition were respectively 0.28 mg kg(-1) and 0.17 mg kg(-1). Risk assessment based on declared cervid meat consumption, revealed that 1.7% of our surveyed hunters would exceed the dose associated with a 1 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure (SBP). For consumers of moose meat once, twice or three times a week, simulations predicted that 0.5%, 0.9% and 1.5% of adults would be exposed to a dose associated with a 1 mm Hg increase in SBP, whereas 0.9%, 1.9% and 3.3% of children would be exposed to a dose associated with 1 point intelligence quotient (IQ) decrease, respectively. For consumers of deer meat, once, twice or three times a week, the proportions were 1.6%, 2.9% and 4% for adults and 2.9%, 5.8% and 7.7% for children, respectively. The consumption of meat from cervids killed with lead ammunition may increase lead exposure and associated health risks. It would be important to inform the population, particularly hunters, about this potential risk and promote the use of lead free ammunition.

Concepts: Risk, Deer, Risk management, White-tailed deer, Hunting, Elk, Capreolinae, Moose


Deer antler velvet is widely used as a vitalizing, tonifying, haemopoietic and strengthening agent for debilitated persons in East Asia. To develop a rapid and sensitive method for the identification of the biological source or origin in antler velvet products, a molecular approach was applied using PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. The cytochrome b gene sequences of nine cervidae species were analyzed, and a Dde I restriction endonuclease recognition site was found only in sika deer and red deer, the official origin of deer velvet in Chinese pharmacopoeia. A specific primer was designed, and rapid PCR amplified products were subjected to restriction digestion using a fast RFLP procedure. Sika deer and red deer showed two bands of 161 and 102 bp, in contrast to the undigested state of 263 from other antlers. The established PCR-RFLP method was applied in commercial velvet products, and a high frequency of substitution (50%) was revealed in collected commercial samples. The method was successful in detecting contaminated and adulterated antler products in Chinese patent drugs, and the whole detection process was accomplished within 1-1.5 h.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Deer, Elk, Moose, Antler, Red Deer, Reindeer, Sika Deer


Ungulate gnawing on bone has been reported in the taphonomic and zooarchaeological literature, but there are no known reports of ungulates altering human remains. Herein, we report on the first known photographic evidence of deer gnawing human remains. As described in nonhuman scavenging literature, forking of the bone characterizes the taphonomic effect of deer gnawing in this case, which is distinct from the effect caused by other scavengers. This type of osteophagia during the winter season is consistent with previously documented behavior of deer gnawing on nonhuman bone, possibly to obtain minerals absent in their diet. In this study, we briefly discuss the distinguishing features of ungulate gnawing, the reasons for this behavior, and possible confusion with other common types of scavenging and modification. This report contributes to taphonomic literature covering the range of animal interactions with human skeletal remains.

Concepts: Deer, Report, White-tailed deer, Elk, Moose, Decomposition, Carnivore, Ungulate


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal contagious prion disease in cervids that is enzootic in some areas in North America. The disease has been found in deer, elk and moose in the USA and Canada, and in South Korea following the importation of infected animals. Here we report the first case of CWD in Europe, in a Norwegian free-ranging reindeer in Southern Norway. The origin of the disease is unknown. Until now a low number of cervids, and among them a few reindeer, have been tested for CWD in Norway. Therefore the prevalence of CWD is unknown.

Concepts: United States, Deer, Elk, Chronic wasting disease, North America, Norway, Moose, Antler


Deer are an iconic group of large mammals that originated in the Early Miocene of Eurasia (ca. 19 Ma). While there is some consensus on key relationships among their members, on the basis of molecular- or morphology-based analyses, or combined approaches, many questions remain, and the bony labyrinth has shown considerable potential for the phylogenetics of this and other groups. Here we examine its shape in 29 species of living and fossil deer using 3D geometric morphometrics and cladistics. We clarify several issues of the origin and evolution of cervids. Our results give new age estimates at different nodes of the tree and provide for the first time a clear distinction of stem and crown Cervidae. We unambiguously attribute the fossil Euprox furcatus (13.8 Ma) to crown Cervidae, pushing back the origin of crown deer to (at least) 4 Ma. Furthermore, we show that Capreolinae are more variable in bony labyrinth shape than Cervinae and confirm for the first time the monophyly of the Old World Capreolinae (including the Chinese water deer Hydropotes) based on morphological characters only. Finally, we provide evidence to support the sister group relationship of Megaloceros giganteus with the fallow deer Dama.

Concepts: Deer, Phylogenetics, Elk, Moose, Reindeer, Fallow Deer


The moose (Alces alces) is a ruminant that harvests energy from fiber-rich lignocellulose material through carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) produced by its rumen microbes. We applied shotgun metagenomics to rumen contents from six moose to obtain insights into this microbiome. Following binning, 99 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) belonging to 11 prokaryotic phyla were reconstructed and characterized based on phylogeny and CAZyme profile. The taxonomy of these MAGs reflected the overall composition of the metagenome, with dominance of the phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Unlike in other ruminants, Spirochaetes constituted a significant proportion of the community and our analyses indicate that the corresponding strains are primarily pectin digesters. Pectin-degrading genes were also common in MAGs of Ruminococcus, Fibrobacteres and Bacteroidetes and were overall overrepresented in the moose microbiome compared with other ruminants. Phylogenomic analyses revealed several clades within the Bacteriodetes without previously characterized genomes. Several of these MAGs encoded a large numbers of dockerins, a module usually associated with cellulosomes. The Bacteroidetes dockerins were often linked to CAZymes and sometimes encoded inside polysaccharide utilization loci, which has never been reported before. The almost 100 CAZyme-annotated genomes reconstructed in this study provide an in-depth view of an efficient lignocellulose-degrading microbiome and prospects for developing enzyme technology for biorefineries.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 21 July 2017; doi:10.1038/ismej.2017.108.

Concepts: Bacteria, Organism, Microbiology, Deer, Ruminant, Rumen, Moose


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), an ecologically and economically important species, are the most widely distributed large animals in North America. A recent study indicated that up to 25% of all white-tailed deer may be infected with Plasmodium odocoilei, a malaria parasite belonging to the distinct clade of ungulate-infecting Plasmodium spp. Because the clinical impact of P. odocoilei on deer health and survival is unknown, we undertook a retrospective longitudinal study of farmed Floridian O. virginianus fawns. We found that a substantial proportion (21%) of fawns acquire malaria infection during the first 8 months of life. Some animals naturally clear P. odocoilei infection, while other animals remain persistently positive. Importantly, we found that animals that acquire malaria parasites very early in life have poor survival compared to animals that remain uninfected. Our report thus provides the first evidence of a clinically significant impact of malaria infection in young deer.IMPORTANCE Malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium are known to infect a variety of vertebrate hosts, including ungulates (hoofed mammals). A recent study found that up to a quarter of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in North America are infected with the parasite Plasmodium odocoilei In addition to occupying an important ecological niche, white-tailed deer are popular game animals and deer farming represents a rapidly growing industry. However, the effect of P. odocoilei infection in this ecologically and economically important ungulate species is unknown. Our work is significant because (i) we identified a high prevalence of P. odocoilei in farmed deer and (ii) we found evidence for both cleared and persistent infection, as well as an association with decreased survival of young fawns.

Concepts: Plasmodium, Deer, White-tailed deer, Hunting, Elk, Capreolinae, Mule deer, Moose