Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Section B. Biological Sciences

Research Article

Evolutionary and ecological origins of British deer

A. M. Listera1

a1 Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, England


The evolutionary origins and relationships of deer are briefly reviewed, with special reference to the species currently living wild or feral in Britain. Two species (red and roe) are native to this country; a third (fallow) was previously native but has been re-introduced from continental Europe; and three taxa (sika, muntjac and Chinese water-deer) have been introduced from eastern Asia. The Pleistocene history of red, roe and fallow deer in Europe is traced in detail, with emphasis on changing patterns of distribution and the climatic and vegetational conditions associated with fossil occurrences. Comparison of Pleistocene habitats with those occupied at the present day helps in an understanding of the ecological flexibility and rangelimiting factors of each species. The taxonomic status and habitats of the Asian species in Britain, as compared to their countries of origin, are briefly reviewed, and the dates of introduction into Britain of the Asian species and of fallow deer are discussed.