An elk that wasn’t an elk

TwilightBeasts

A herd of the giant Megaloceros giganteus. Standing proud: A herd of the giant deer Megaloceros giganteus during the closing years of the Pleistocene. (Painting by Tabitha Paterson)

To see an Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus) in all its glory, visit the National Museum of Ireland, in Dublin. Here, skeletons of this magnificent beast are articulated, proudly towering higher than the visitors. What really stands out are the incredibly enormous antlers, spanning 3.6 metres across! Standing face to face with a skeleton of Megaloceros you can imagine the awe-inspiring beast, roaming in herds across Europe around 13,000 years ago, at the very twilight of the Pleistocene.

Known as ‘the Irish Elk’, Megaloceros was neither exclusively Irish, nor an elk. This giant was the largest deer to have ever existed; it’s closest relative, the Fallow Deer (Dama dama), was half the size! There were elks in Ireland, many of which are found in ancient bogs around 13,000 years…

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