Stag Moose (Cervalces Scotti)

stag moose cervalces scotti
The Stag Moose, Cervalces scotti (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Stag Moose; also known as Cervalces scotti

Habitat:

Swamps and woodlands of North America

Historical Epoch:

Pleistocene-Modern (2 million-10,000 years ago)

Size and Weight:

About eight feet long and 1,500 pounds

Diet:

Grass

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; thin legs; elaborate antlers on the males

About the Stag Moose

The Stag Moose (which is sometimes hyphenated and capitalized differently, as the Stag-moose) wasn't technically a moose, but an overgrown, moose-like deer of Pleistocene North America equipped with unusually long, skinny legs, a head reminiscent of an elk, and elaborate, branched antlers (on the males) matched only by its fellow prehistoric ungulates Eucladoceros and the Irish Elk. The first Stag Moose fossil was discovered in 1805 by William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame, at Big Bone Lick in Kentucky;  a second specimen was unearthed in New Jersey (of all places) in 1885, by William Barryman Scott (hence the Stag-Moose's species name, Cervalces scotti); and since then various individuals have been unearthed in states suchas Iowa and Ohio. (See a slideshow of 10 Recently Extinct Game Animals)

Like its namesake, the Stag Moose led a very moose-like lifestyle--which, if you don't happen to be familiar with mooses, entailed wandering swamps, marshes and tidelands in search of tasty vegetation and keeping a close eye out for predators (such as the Saber-Toothed Tiger and the Dire Wolf, which also inhabited Pleistocene North America). As for the most distinctive characteristic of Cervalces scotti, its enormous, branching horns, those were clearly a sexually selected characteristic: the males of the herd locked antlers during mating season, and the winners earned the right to procreate with females (thus ensuring a new crop of big-antlered males, and so on down through the generations).

Like its fellow plant-eating megafauna mammals of the last Ice Age--including the Woolly Rhino, the Woolly Mammoth, and the Giant Beaver--the Stag Moose was hunted by early humans, at the same time as its population was restricted by inexorable climate change and the loss of its natural pasture. However, the proximate cause of the Stag Moose's demise, 10,000 years ago, was probably the arrival in North America of the true moose (Alces alces), from eastern Eurasia via the Bering Land Bridge in Alaska. Alces alces, apparently, was better at being a moose than the Stag Moose, and its slightly smaller size helped it to subsist on rapidly dwindling amounts of vegetation.