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Sci Rep. 2017 Oct 13;7(1):13176. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-12848-9.

Bony labyrinth morphology clarifies the origin and evolution of deer.

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Nathurhistorisches Museum Basel, Augustinergasse 2, 4001, Basel, Switzerland.
ICTA-ICP, Edifici Z, c/de les columnes s/n, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain.
Departamento de Ciencias de la Tierra, Área de Paleontología.Universidad de Zaragoza, Pedro Cerbuna 12, 50009, Zaragoza, Spain.
Fundación ARAID, Zaragoza, Spain.
Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science Invalidenstraße 43, 10115, Berlin, Germany.
Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie, Richard-Wagner-Strasse 10, 80333, Munich, Germany.
CR2P - Centre de Recherches sur la Paléobiodiversité et les Paléoenvironnements, UMR 7207, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, CNRS, UPMC, Sorbonne Universités. MNHN, CP38, 8 rue Buffon, 75005, Paris, France.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW, United Kingdom.
Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 142 Xizhimenwai Street, Beijing, 100044, China.
University of Basel, Biomaterials Science Center, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Gewerbestrasse 14, 4123, Allschwil, Switzerland.
Nathurhistorisches Museum Basel, Augustinergasse 2, 4001, Basel, Switzerland.


Deer are an iconic group of large mammals that originated in the Early Miocene of Eurasia (ca. 19 Ma). While there is some consensus on key relationships among their members, on the basis of molecular- or morphology-based analyses, or combined approaches, many questions remain, and the bony labyrinth has shown considerable potential for the phylogenetics of this and other groups. Here we examine its shape in 29 species of living and fossil deer using 3D geometric morphometrics and cladistics. We clarify several issues of the origin and evolution of cervids. Our results give new age estimates at different nodes of the tree and provide for the first time a clear distinction of stem and crown Cervidae. We unambiguously attribute the fossil Euprox furcatus (13.8 Ma) to crown Cervidae, pushing back the origin of crown deer to (at least) 4 Ma. Furthermore, we show that Capreolinae are more variable in bony labyrinth shape than Cervinae and confirm for the first time the monophyly of the Old World Capreolinae (including the Chinese water deer Hydropotes) based on morphological characters only. Finally, we provide evidence to support the sister group relationship of Megaloceros giganteus with the fallow deer Dama.

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