A black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) wades and browses at Angelo Coast Range Reserve, CA.
I finally decided to educate myself about how the various North American deer relate to one another. There are
Deer are in the family Cervidae, so we call them all cervids. Deer are divided into two subfamilies:
-the Cervinae, or Old World deer
-the Capreolinae, or New World deer
All of the deer I listed above are New World deer, except for elk/wapiti. Their genus evolved in Eurasia, and probably only arrived in North America during the Pliocene, about five million years ago.
The rest in the list are New World deer-- which is quite a misleading name. New World deer arose in Asia, and all of the tribes in this subfamily actually have representatives in the Old World.
The white-tailed, black-tailed, and mule deer share the genus Odocoileus. White-tailed deer evolved first, and have a sprawling range that consumes most of the US, the lower half of Canada, through Central America, and the top of South America. Mule deer are a younger species, and are so called due to their large, mule-like ears. Their range is more restricted, along the West Coast of North America, just touching Alaska and south as far as the tip of the Baja California Peninsula. Black-tailed deer are considered to be subspecies of Mule deer. Mule and White-tailed deer hybridize, although their hybrid offspring don't fare very well.
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