Species Megaloceros giganteus
Irish Elk Basics
The Irish Elk is a defunct species of the Cervidae family that comprises surviving deer. The Irish Elk is commonly referred to as the “great deer.” The Irish Elk is most strongly connected to the fallow deer and is renowned for its enormous size. The European elk (moose) and the North American elk are not as closely related (wapiti). The species is recognisable by its large size, massive antlers, and a little shoulder hump.
Although traces of the Irish Elk have been unearthed across Europe, the peat bogs of Ireland also maintained many entire examples. Megalocerus giganteus is a scientific term that alludes to both the creature’s gigantic antlers (‘megalos’ = great + ‘cerus’ = antler) and its massive size (giganteus). This species’ antlers have been discovered to reach approximately 12 feet (3.6 metres) wide!
Similar to other deer species, the Irish elk was most probably a herding animal based on reproduction, with males competing directly for females. Their massive antlers, which are among the world’s biggest, were most likely a sexually chosen characteristic. Females choose males with bigger horns since they can fight more effectively, and also because larger horns indicate higher vigor.
Why Did the Irish Elk Go Extinct?
The newest Irish elk fossil, discovered in Siberia, is approximately 7,700 years old. Though populations undoubtedly became extinct at various periods across the world, this seems to be the final occasion the Irish Elk was spotted on the planet. The exact cause of the Irish elk’s extinction is unknown, while various theories exist.
Within the few thousand years that Irish elk were abundant throughout Europe, the surface of the planet underwent some dramatic changes. The first was the Last Glacial Period, which lasted around 115,000 to 11,700 years and was marked by typically cooler temperatures and fully established glaciers. Glaciers started to melt after that period, as global warming started to steadily rise. This not only altered the sorts of plants accessible, but it also aided human population growth in the whole Europe.
Numerous hypotheses claim that human shooting was the last consequence of the extinction of the Irish elk, whether due to the elk’s maladaptations—including its large horns, which may have stopped it from sprinting—or just widespread slaughter that reduced the number until it went extinct. Humans started killing off many of the world’s biggest creatures, so this argument is quite plausible.
Interesting Insights from the Irish Elk!
Even though the Irish elk are defunct, they have much to educate us regarding biology. In reality, they frequently yield some of the most helpful data regarding evolution, extinction, and a range of other biological concepts. Let’s take a look at some of the key principles exhibited by the Irish elk.
A paleontologist’s profession includes reconstructing the lifestyles of extinct species. In order to do so, they rely on every hint possible from the fossils they gather. Many fossils of the Irish elk have been discovered in Irish peat bogs and various locations throughout the world. As a result, palaeontologists may make reasonable conclusions about how this species became extinct.
Monitoring the size of antlers through time has shown that the overall size of horns was actually decreasing around the time the huge deer went extinct. This indicates that the antlers were too large, and that creatures with fewer horns performed better in terms of survival and reproduction. The finding of horns as well as bones from species in early human settlements shows that humans were familiar with the animal and presumably used it as a food source.
The Loss of Large Species
When humans spread over the world at the conclusion of the previous Ice Age, it brought with it a voracious taste for the enormous sports animals found in these additional areas. Consequently, most of these species went extinct long before the arrival of advanced civilization. Many species that were presumably killed off by early human settlements joined the Irish elk.
The woolly mammoth, mastodon, American lion, ground sloths, dire wolves, huge armadillos, sabre-toothed tigers, and several more enormous creatures that flourished in the frigid eras preceding the emergence of mankind are also included in this category. Many of these animals were hunted to extinction for their flesh. Others became extinct owing to a shortage of food and exploitation by early cultivators and human habitation.
With extinctions still occurring at an alarming pace, many experts believe that human beings are to blame for the Sixth Mass Extinction, which is still occurring and may wipe out the majority of the world’s species. While the extinction of one species is not inherently alarming, hundreds, thousands, or millions of species will go extinct.
Ecosystems operate because of these organisms. Ecosystems might collapse if they are not present. While it’s impossible to criticise early humans for trying to live, humans currently live in a society where the majority of people don’t need to consume meat. Yet, people realise that there will be methods for building communities in a sustainable manner that does not harm nature. There is no justification why humans should continue to exterminate countless species.