Reassessment of morphology and historical distribution as factors in conservation efforts for the Endangered Patagonian Huemul Deer Hippocamelus bisulcus (Molina 1782)

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H.T. Force

Abstract

To assist with conservation of Endangered Patagonian Huemul Deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus), the Huemul Task Force (HTF) reassessed information on appendicular morphology, paleobiogeography, and historical distribution as potential factors in recovery efforts. Traditional claims of being a mountain specialist of the Andes were refuted by empirical evidence showing huemul morphology to coincide with other cervids rather than the commonly implied homology to rock-climbing ungulates. It thus supports historical evidence of huemul in treeless habitat and reaching the Atlantic coast, which cannot be dismissed as past erroneous observations. Instead, pre- and post-Columbian anthropogenic impacts resulted in huemul displacement from productive sites and in survival mainly in remote and marginal refuge areas. The process of range contraction was facilitated by easy hunting of huemul, energetic incentives from seasonal fat cycles and huemul concentrations, the change from hunting-gathering to a mobile equestrian economy, and colonization with livestock. However, areas used presently by huemul, as supposed mountain specialists, are also used by wild and domestic ungulates that clearly are not considered mountain specialists, whereas the only other Hippocamelus successfully uses areas homologous to tree-less Patagonia. Rigid application of modern habitat usage to infer past habitat use and ignoring historic extra-Andean accounts is unwarranted; these conclusions reached by the HTF indicate new opportunities for recovery efforts by considering morphological and historical evidence. For instance, reintroductions to other portions of the landscape used formerly by huemul, which tend to be more productive sites than those currently occupied by many huemul groups, would present a promising avenue.

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How to Cite
[1]
Force, H. 2012. Reassessment of morphology and historical distribution as factors in conservation efforts for the Endangered Patagonian Huemul Deer Hippocamelus bisulcus (Molina 1782). Journal of Threatened Taxa. 4, 14 (Nov. 2012), 3302–3311. DOI:https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3088.3302-11.
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Communications