Geometric morphometric analysis of antler development in Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus hispanicus)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution



Publication details

Title of host publicationAnatomical Record
DatePublished - 2013
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Electronic)1932-8494


This study describes and quantifies antler shape variation in Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus hispanicus) from Sierra Morena (Spain) to both characterize age related changes and antler pattern. Thirty-five landmarks were recorded using a MicroScribe 3D digitizer on 209 red deer antlers. Geometric morphometric analyses explored overall antler shape variation and localised morphological variations of the common parts of antlers (beams, trez tines and eye tines). The degree of covariance with antler size and shape of several environmental and developmental factors (age, winter rainfall, presence of bez tines, and capture year) was also assessed. The shape and size analyses indicated that, in young individuals (2 to 5 years), antlers are relatively more elongated near the skull and their beams are closer distally, while the antlers of fully-grown individuals (4 to 9 years) are relatively shorter near the skull and more arched distally. Shape variations linked to age were also identified in specific tines: trez and eye tines were straighter and more vertically oriented in the youngest individuals, becoming longer and more curved in older individuals. The main factors associated with red deer antler size and shape differences were presence of bez tines and age, although the effects of capture year and winter rainfall were also significant. After assigning a pattern score to each antler, based on beam length and symmetry, for example, we carried out a multivariate regression of shape on pattern score and used this to visualize the associated shape variation. Pattern score improved between age classes 2 and 4, with some deterioration in pattern in age classes 5 and 6. These findings have implications for the management and conservation of Iberian red deer in Sierra Morena.

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