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Irish Elk

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The Irish Elk skull and 10 feet wide antler mount in the southeast corner of the museum foyer is from an extinct, probable ancestor of today’s living Fallow deer. The antler shape and tine positions are nearly identical except their lateral vs. upright positions. The Irish Elk lived on the open heather moors of the British Isles where antlers could grow out to the sides without causing problems. The Fallow deer mainly live in forests and their antlers need to be aimed more up so they can fit between the trees.

The specimen belongs to the California Academy of Sciences. When the 1984 bay area earthquake happened the building it was housed in was damaged so badly that it was closed to the public. Three years later zoology instructor Charles Dailey asked about getting his students into the room to see the specimen. That wasn’t going to happen. He suggested it could be moved to the Life Through Time exhibit. They acknowledged that but said that if they were to consider that they would put the BIG one on display. So Dailey asked what it would take to borrow this ‘little’ set. Insurance and security requirements were met and so now we have it on loan. A subsequent decision by the Academy committee to only display California fossils means that it will probably stay here forever. Thank you California Academy of Sciences!

These animals didn’t drink milk ever again after being weaned by their mothers. Males need lots of calcium to replace their deciduous antlers every year, and females need lots of calcium to allow development of their babies. However they get the calcium needed for strong bones and teeth by eating lots of green leafy plants. Perhaps the broccoli growers could sponsor green moustache commercials.
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