Ronald Aaron Moen

Center for Water and the Environment    .    Natural Resources Research Institute

Irish Elk Research


Moen, R.A. J. Pastor, and Y. Cohen. 1999. Antler growth and extinction of Irish elk. Evolutionary Ecology Research 1:235-249.

Adult male Irish elk ( Megaloceros giganteus ) grew the largest antlers of any extinct or extant cervid. We used a mineral and energy metabolism model developed for extant cervids to compare nutritional requirements for antler growth among Irish elk and extant cervids. Body water, fat, protein, and ash were simulated on a daily time step to predict energy, protein, and mineral requirements for antler growth and body mass changes. Antler growth required half to two-thirds as much energy as fat and protein deposition each summer. Protein requirements for antler growth were met by forage intake. Irish elk deposited 3.8 kg of phosphorus and 7.6 kg of calcium into antlers which weighed 40 kg at the end of the velvet shedding. More than 80 g / day of calcium and > 40 g / day of phosphorus were deposited for 40 days when antler mineralization rate was highest in mid-summer. Up to 16% of the calcium and phosphorus in the antler was resorbed from the skeleton because dietary intake of minerals was insufficient to meet requirements for antler mineralization. Phosphorus was more likely to limit growth of antlers than calcium. Irish elk grew antlers very close to the maximum antler mass possible for their body mass, antler Ca and P stoichiometry, daily forage intake, and length of the antler growing season.

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