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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
A series on extinct creatures is running on the National Geographic Channel, and last night was the Irish Elk's turn. The beast's antlers must indeed have been fearsome in a fight, and they also would have made splendid solar panels or satellite dishes.
Here's the episode blurb:
Extinct: Irish Elk
Early detractors used the Irish elk to challenge Charles Darwin’s famed theory of evolution. If only “the fittest” survive, they posed, then what possible advantage could unwieldy 12-foot antlers provide? Too large to serve simply as defensive weapons, the evidence suggests that this characteristic developed to such an immense scale as a means to compete for and attract mates. Like the saber tooth, the Irish elk suffered at the end of the Ice Age. Ironically, as it got warmer in most other parts of the world, it got colder in Ireland, which decimated the Irish elk. For the fragmented populations, such as those whose remains scientists discovered just recently in Scotland, the elks’ large size and antlers became a detriment, and the topography of the British Isles kept the diminishing populations isolated from each other until they finally succumbed to extinction.
The episode airs again Saturday, March 13, at 2 p.m., Eastern Time. Do check the repeat times on the other episodes, too. Turns out the Dodo tasted horrible and wasn't eaten by sailors. And that Thylacine certainly could yawn. (Fat lot of good it did him.)