New paper in The Anatomical Record


Antler tine homologies and cervid systematics: A review of past and present controversies with special emphasis on Elaphurus davidianus

Heckeberg NS, Zachos FE & Kierdorf U. 2022.
The Anatomical Record, 1– 24. Published online 16 May 2022


Antlers are the most conspicuous trait of cervids and have been used in the past to establish a classification of their fossil and living representatives. Since the availability of molecular data, morphological characters have generally become less important for phylogenetic reconstructions. In recent years, however, the appreciation of morphological characters has increased, and they are now more frequently used in addition to molecular data to reconstruct the evolutionary history of cervids. A persistent challenge when using antler traits in deer systematics is finding a consensus on the homology of structures. Here, we review early and recent attempts to homologize antler structures and objections to this approach, compare and evaluate recent advances on antler homologies, and critically discuss these different views in order to offer a basis for further scientific exchange on the topic. We further present some developmental aspects of antler branching patterns and discuss their potential for reconstructing cervid systematics. The use of heterogeneous data for reconstructing phylogenies has resulted in partly conflicting hypotheses on the systematic position of certain cervid species, on which we also elaborate here. We address current discussions on the use of different molecular markers in cervid systematics and the question whether antler morphology and molecular data can provide a consistent picture on the evolutionary history of cervids. In this context, special attention is given to the antler morphology and the systematic position of the enigmatic Pere David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus).