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Quaternary history of the European roe deer Capreolus capreolus

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• The European roe deer Capreolus capreolus is a typical faunal element of the Holocene. It was already present in Europe at least 600 000 years ago and it has been known from both glacial and interglacial phases since then. With nearly 3000 fossil and subfossil records, it is one of the most frequent mammals in the Late Quaternary.

• During the Middle and Late Weichselian Pleniglacial, the distribution of the roe deer was not restricted to the Mediterranean peninsulas but repeatedly reached regions of central Europe. In contrast to that, roe deer records from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 21.0–14.5 ka 14C BP) are largely confined to the Mediterranean peninsulas – with the exception of south-western France and the surroundings of the Carpathians where several records attest to its occurrence during the LGM.

• During the Greenland Interstadial 1 (12.5–10.8 ka 14C BP), the species' distribution extended further north and the roe deer appeared north of the Alps and reached regions of central Germany. This seems to be correlated with the abrupt change to more favourable environmental conditions during this period. It is very likely that the roe deer disappeared north of the Alps during the Younger Dryas cooling (10.8–10.0 ka14C BP). The northern regions of the central European lowlands were recolonized by roe deer during the late Preboreal 9.7–9.5 ka 14C BP for the first time since the Weichselian Glacial.

• The combined pattern of genetic data and fossil records of European roe deer suggests several regions in the Iberian peninsula, southern France, Italy and the Balkans as well as in the Carpathians and/or eastern Europe as glacial refugia. It further suggests that C. capreolus might have recolonized most parts of central-northern Europe out of one or more eastern European (not Balkan) and/or Carpathian refugia. This recolonization wave might have blocked immigration from the traditional Mediterranean areas.
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Keywords: Capreolus capreolus; glacial refuge; ice age; phylogeography; recolonization

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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