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Disappearance of Irish Elk 17 November 2009

Starvation 'wiped out' giant deer

The giant deer, also known as the giant Irish deer or Irish elk, is one of the largest deer species that ever lived. Yet why this giant animal, which had massive antlers spanning 3.6m, suddenly became extinct some 10,600 years ago has remained a mystery.

Now a study of its teeth is producing tantalising answers, suggesting the deer couldn't cope with climate change. As conditions became colder and drier in Ireland at the time, fewer plants grew, gradually starving the deer. The discovery is published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

The giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus) has become famous over the past few centuries. In the early 1800s, discoveries of its remains opened up the debate about whether animal species had previously become extinct, and whether new life-forms could be discovered in the fossil record. Around this time, conflicting ideas as to why the animal went extinct began to emerge. Initial ideas ranged from the Biblical flood described by Genesis, to the idea that humans had wiped them out.

This story is from the BBC.  Read the story in full here: