Megaloceros - The Irish Elk or Giant Deer
When: Mid Pleistocene to Early Holocene (400,000 to 8,000 years ago)
Where: Throughout Eurasia, ranging from the British Isles to China.
What: Megaloceros had the largest antlers of any known deer. It ranged all over Eurasia, with a vast quantity of fossils known from Irish peat bogs, giving it the common name of ‘The Irish Elk’. As Megaloceros is not an elk, but rather a ‘true deer’ in the clade Cervini, the name ‘Giant Deer’ is sometimes used instead, by people who really care about that sort of thing. Megaloceros stood roughly 7 feet (~2 meters) tall at the shoulder, with antlers up to 12 feet (3.6 m) wide from tip to tip.
These large antlers have received a lot of attention, for obvious reasons. They are thought to be only for display, as their orientations and placement upon the skull are far from ideal for use in fights between males for mates. The size of the antlers has been suggested to be the reason for the extinction of this deer in several different hypotheses, but none of them have stood up to strong scrutiny. Megaloceras is one of many fossil animals for which we have no clear explanation for its extinction.