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) Traditionally, many authors have chosen to lump wapiti within (i.e.
as a subspecies of) the Red deer because, despite various anatomical, biochemical, ecological, behavioural and (more recently) genetic differences, wapiti are able to hybridize successfully -- i.e.
Indeed, it’s worth remembering that what happens in captivity and what happens in the wild may be very different!
The majority of species have been fairly well defined, but there are two in particular that have caused (indeed, are still a source of) much controversy – debate rages over whether the wapiti and Red deer should be considered the same, or distinct, species.
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.
Since then, the wapiti has been the subject of much taxonomic yo-yoing, being moved between a full species, ).
Red deer, as we currently think of them, may actually be as many as three separate species, according to the cytochrome analysis performed by Christian Pitra and his colleagues published in the journal during 2004.
I have opted to follow the bulk of the molecular data here and as such consider there to be 10 species within the ) deer, although both studies used artificial insemination and success rates were low.Unfortunately, the majority of these traits are not good taxonomic indicators, because they’re readily influenced by the environment – arguably this is especially true for body size and antler growth, both of which can be severely limited in habitats with poor grazing/browsing, even though antler development appears deeply rooted in the animal’s genetics.Consequently, the subspecific division of the Red deer remains a controversial topic.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.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).The Red deer has a long history in Britain – one of only two native deer species in the UK, it’s a beast highly prized by hunters, naturalists, artists, poets and photographers alike.Renowned Scottish artist Archibald Thorburn summed up the situation nicely in his 1920 book .” That which follows is a summary of Red deer natural history.Generally-speaking, it is considered that in order for two individuals to be considered for subspecific status, there should be a maximum of 10% overlap in physical characteristics – in other words, they should be at least 90% different from each other.Drs Lowe and Gardiner examined the skulls of 10 of the 19 subspecies of Red deer listed by John Ellerman and Sir Charles Morrison-Scott in their 1951 , examining 16 variables of skull size and shape and subjecting the data to three separate statistical analyses.