Taphonomy and Herd Structure of the Extinct Irish Elk, Megaloceros giganteus

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Science  19 Apr 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4697, pp. 340-344
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4697.340


Fossils of the late Pleistocene elk Megaloceros giganteus from Ballybetagh bog, near Dublin, Ireland, indicate that males segregated from females during winters. The segregation implies seasonal rutting and polygynous mating and is consistent with the idea that large antlers functioned for social display. Within male groups, winterkill was the chief cause of death and was highest among juveniles and small adults with small antlers. There is no evidence to support the popular conception that heavy antlers caused animals to drown or become mired.