A paleozoological perspective on predator extermination and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Boddaert) overabundance in central Texas.
Description: Archaeological and paleontological datasets are used in conservation to add time-depth to ecology. In central Texas several top carnivores including prehistoric Native American hunters have been extirpated or have had their historic ranges restricted, which has resulted in pest-level white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus texana) populations in some areas. Predator extermination has dramatically reduced the average body size of members of the extant predator guild, and large carnivores most capable of hunting white-tailed deer are extirpated. Character release in the remaining “large” predatorsmesocarnivoresis a predicted outcome related to the adaptive vacuum at the top of the trophic hierarchy. Differences in body size of deer between prehistory and modernity are expected given that a lack of predation likely has increased intraspecific competition for forage among deer resulting in smaller body size today. In fact modern deer from settings without harvest pressure are significantly smaller than those from harvested areas and from prehistoric deer. From a natural history perspective, this research highlights potential evolutionary causes and effects of top-predator removal on deer populations and related components of biological communities in central Texas.
Date: May 2007
Creator: Wolverton, Steven J.