Roosevelt Elk

The Relationships and Classifications of Roosevelt Elk

The Elk are in kingdom Animalia because they are heterotrophic, multicellular, and Eukaryotic. Following that the elk are classified in phylum chordate because of the backbone and dueterostomes. Then elk are in the class Mammalia because they have hair, their offspring are developed internally and they have a well-developed dorsal nervous chord. The order Artiodactyla  are hooved which the elk use to travel great distances . The family they belong to is the Cervidae family. They belong to this family because they have antlers. They are in the Cervus genus because they are considered a type of deer. In Latin the word Cervus means hart. The definition of hart is an adult deer. The Roosevelt elk are in the Cervus genus because they are considered a deer.

Roosevelt elk are triploblastic. They have an endoskeleton, not an exoskeleton. Roosevelt elk have a backbone, a developed jaw and hair. Their unique characteristics that differentiate them from other mammals are mainly their antlers and hooves. These are very unique characteristics that only a few other mammals have.


The scientific name that is given to the Roosevelt elk is Cervus canadensis roosevelti. In a literal translation this comes out to be Roosevelt deer Canada. The scientific description is that this is a deer from Canada and it is named after the President Theodore Roosevelt. The person who discovered this species named it after Roosevelt because at the time Theodore Roosevelt was an avid conversationalist who wanted to keep the elk species alive. Because of his determination and drive the species was named after the 26th president of the United States.

Elk are very closely related to the red deer. They are in fact so similar that some claim they should be treated as the same species. This is not surprising though because of their many shared traits. Some of these shared traits include the appearance of antlers, their similar diet, their outer covering and the roaming that both animals exhibit. Both of these species also use their antlers for defense and for fending of other males from their mates. During mating season males will use their antlers to try and show dominance over other males. This is used to show which male is the most dominant. The strong similarities have shown elk to be classified closely to the Olgocene genus which contain the deer(Whitehead 1972). The major difference is that elk are larger is size than the red deer. The elk are believed to have their common ancestors from Eurasia. Then, it is believed, that they spread out to fill most of the niches in Eurasia and North America. The common ancestor is believed to have been much larger as evidence has pointed to a reduction of size over time since the beginning of the species (Red Deer).

 Many of the different types of elk are split up because of different types of DNA. Some of its closest relatives are the:  Cervus elaphus elaphus, Cervus elaphus xanthopygus, the Cervus elaphus kansuensis, the Cervus songaricus, the Cervus wardi, and the Cervus macneilli. All of these animals can be found in the same genus and actually have very similar characteristics (Murie 1951). The elk even have the same rut time as the red deer which shows that they are closely related. It is not known if a deer and a Roosevelt elk can mate so the major similarities are morphological and cladistical. The Roosevelt elk has the closet relationship to the Rocky Mountain elk. This is mainly because the territory of the Roosevelt elk is close to the territory of the Rocky Mountain elk. When concluding that these elk had the most similar DNA one can expect that they share a common ancestor that also lives in North America at one time.

Many once thought that Roosevelt elk and Rocky mountain elk were the same species. The elk were soon compared side by side and found to have many differences. The major difference between the Roosevelt elk and the Rocky mountain elk is that the Roosevelt elk is typically bigger topping out the scales at 1,000 pounds. They also have larger antlers which can also be another defining characteristic. Not only do Roosevelt elk have larger antlers but actually larger skulls. This is understandable because of the larger size. Another morphological difference is the color change between the two types of elks. The Roosevelt elk has a darker coloration to it than is close relative the Rocky mountain elk. The last major difference is actually where they live. They live in a separate environment than do the rocky mountain elk which has caused differences in their DNA.

Most researchers had long thought that the Roosevelt elk was closest to the Rocky mountain elk in the phylogenetic tree. Instead Roosevelt elk are most similar to the Tule elk when comparing DNA(Meredith 2007). This has brought about the relationship shown above where the Roosevelt elk is closest to the Tule elk when put on the phylogenetic tree.


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