Calibration of life history traits with epiphyseal closure, dental eruption and bone histology in captive and wild red deer
The study of skeletochronology and bone tissue as a record of information on ontogenetic stages and events is widely used for improving the knowledge about life histories (LHs) of extinct and extant vertebrates. Compared to dinosaurs and extant reptiles, mammalian bone histology has received little attention. Here, we will for the first time calibrate bone and dental age with histological bone characteristics and LH stages in ontogenetic series of red deer. We rely on the known LHs of different aged individuals of captive Cervus elaphus hippelaphus from Austria to correlate epiphyseal closure, dental eruption pattern, bone growth marks and bone tissue patterns in femora and tibiae, and of wild Cervus elaphus hispanicus from Spain. Females (of both subspecies) attain skeletal maturity earlier than males. At this moment, epiphyseal closure (in femora and tibiae) and dental eruption are completed and long bones begin to deposit an external fundamental system (EFS). Results also show that the attainment of reproductive maturity in red deer occurs slightly before skeletal maturity.