Although the deer’s skeletal system is very similar to a dog or cat’s in terms of its basic structure, although there are some adaptations that they require in order to survive the wild. Deer have long necks which enable them to crane it so they can feed off low lying grass and other vegetation. Stefoff, R. (2007)
Deer are prey animals and so they require adaptations that enable them to run fast and this is why they are ‘ugulates’, (hoofed mammals). Ungulates walk on their ‘ungulis’ which is a tough outer plate of a hoof or toenail. When ungulates walk, their feet or digits do not come into contact with the ground but their hooves. Stefoff, R. (2007). This clever evolutionary asset is essential for speed. This is down to the biomechanics of how bodies move- the smaller the area that touches the ground with each stride, the greater the stride is which results in faster movement. Stefoff, R. (2007)
Hooves are an extremely strong version of human fingernails strong enough not to break when under immense pressure i.e. when the deer is running. Stefoff, R. (2007).The strength of the hooves comes from the keratin which exists in thick sheets and keratin fibres which run in all directions Stefoff, R. (2007)
Deer have a total of four toes on each foot. The middle two toes touch the ground and the outer two are elevated at the back, just above the hoof and are called dewclaws Stefoff, R. (2007). Metapodials in deer are elongated and form the lower part of the deer’s legs. In a deer, the femur and the humerus are short and thick in order to be able to anchor the large mass of muscle needed to propel them forward when running at high speed. Stefoff, R. (2007)
Seven glands are located on the body of a deer, scattered from head to toe to assist with communication amongst the herd and is how deer differentiate between one another (interspecies communication) Nickens, E. (2009). Deer scent is made up of scent glands and their urine. Stefoff, R. (2007) Deer use a technique called ‘flehmen’; this is the act of curling back their upper lip and sucking in air. This is used to detect scents from other deer. Stefoff, R. (2007)
Name of gland| Function| Location|
Tarsal| Subcutaneous organ. Deer urinate on the glands and the reaction between the urine, gland secretions and bacteria produces an odur. Bucks establish dominance partly through these secretions | Inside of hind legs.| Metatarsal| Involved in producing an alarm scent.| Outside of hind legs.| Preputial| plays a role in a rutting buck’s identifiable scent.| inside buck’s penal sheath.| Interdigital| contains 46 volatile compounds and are secreted by this gland. It has different evaporation rates which changes the smell of the secretions and this is how deer track the age of a smell.| between the toes| Nasal| The function of it is unknown. | inside the nostrils.| Preorbital| for marking rubs on surfaces such as trees and ground| in front of the deer’s eyes| Forehead| for marking rubs against vegetation.| between the eyes and the antler bases|
Antler growth is an interesting area of study which provokes questioning as to why antler growth is delayed until the start of puberty and secondly, mammalian organ regeneration. Antler growth only occurs in male deer and is delayed until the start of puberty at 5 – 7 months old. No other mammal can regenerate an organ. The antlers of a 200-kg adult red deer may weigh as much 30 kg but take only 3 months to grow.
Antlers are formed from pedicles; permanent bony horns on the frontal bone of the skull. Periosteal cells (Antlerogenic Periosteum) are collected in the distal parts of the cristae externae of the frontal bones. These are activated by rising...