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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2006 Jul;40(1):101-17. Epub 2006 Apr 3.

Mitochondrial and nuclear phylogenies of Cervidae (Mammalia, Ruminantia): Systematics, morphology, and biogeography.

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UMR 5202-Origine, Structure et Evolution de la Biodiversité, Département Systématique et Evolution, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Case postale No. 51, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France.


The family Cervidae includes 40 species of deer distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, as well as in South America and Southeast Asia. Here, we examine the phylogeny of this family by analyzing two mitochondrial protein-coding genes and two nuclear introns for 25 species of deer representing most of the taxonomic diversity of the family. Our results provide strong support for intergeneric relationships. To reconcile taxonomy and phylogeny, we propose a new classification where the family Cervidae is divided in two subfamilies and five tribes. The subfamily Cervinae is composed of two tribes: the tribe Cervini groups the genera Cervus, Axis, Dama, and Rucervus, with the Père David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus) included in the genus Cervus, and the swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli) placed in the genus Rucervus; the tribe Muntiacini contains Muntiacus and Elaphodus. The subfamily Capreolinae consists of the tribes Capreolini (Capreolus and Hydropotes), Alceini (Alces), and Odocoileini (Rangifer + American genera). Deer endemic to the New World fall in two biogeographic lineages: the first one groups Odocoileus and Mazama americana and is distributed in North, Central, and South America, whereas the second one is composed of South American species only and includes Mazama gouazoubira. This implies that the genus Mazama is not a valid taxon. Molecular dating suggests that the family originated and radiated in central Asia during the Late Miocene, and that Odocoileini dispersed to North America during the Miocene/Pliocene boundary, and underwent an adaptive radiation in South America after their Pliocene dispersal across the Isthmus of Panama. Our phylogenetic inferences show that the evolution of secondary sexual characters (antlers, tusk-like upper canines, and body size) has been strongly influenced by changes in habitat and behaviour.

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