The wapiti range over much of North America and eastern Asia and are superficially similar to the Red deer of Europe and Asia (an area collectively termed “Eurasia”).

phylogenetics and dating with confidence-70

However, more recently, several studies have suggested that there may be far fewer than 12 subspecies and have cast doubt on the validity of the Scottish Red as a valid subspecies.

In a major review of Red deer taxonomy published in the exhibits a high degree of morphological similarity between the animals across their range.

Work by taxonomists from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s led to the splitting of wapiti and Red deer based on data from skeletal measurements, protein assays and haemoglobin morphology.

However, in their review of the situation in 1989, Patrick Lowe and Andrew Gardiner concluded that, from their analysis of nearly 300 deer skulls, although some morphological variation exists supporting the separation at the during 2004, by Technical University Munich-Weihenstephan (in Germany) taxonomist Christian Ludt and three colleagues, looked at a particular gene carried on the mt DNA of 51 populations of deer spanning the entire distribution of (henceforth referred to as the Red deer).

The findings of Dr Pitra and his colleagues require additional study and no such split has been widely accepted.

The terrific variation observed in Red deer throughout their range has lead to the description of many potential subspecies.

) Traditionally, many authors have chosen to lump wapiti within (i.e.

as a subspecies of) the Red deer because, despite various anatomical, biochemical, ecological, behavioural and (more recently) genetic differences, wapiti are able to hybridize successfully -- i.e.

Red deer, as we currently think of them, may actually be as many as three separate species, according to the cytochrome analysis performed by Christian Pitra and his colleagues published in the journal during 2004.

I won’t go into much detail about the findings here, but suffice to say that Dr Pitra and his team found molecular evidence to suggest that Red deer from Central Asia and those from North Africa and Corsica-Sardinia may represent species as distinct from , respectively).

Certain aspects of the natural history common to all deer (e.g.