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The deer family includes deer, moose, elk, and caribou. There are about 44 species in this group. They are found throughout the world except Australia, Antarctica, and Africa south of the Sahara desert.

Deer species range in size from 10 to 800 kg. All have slender legs, are usually brown or grayish in color, and their young have spotted coats. In all species of deer, except one, males develop antlers. Antlers are made of bone and grow from the frontal parts of the skull. The antlers are grown each year and are used in combat between males over mating opportunities with females. The antlers then fall off and are re-grown the following year. In caribou, antlers develop in both males and females and do not fall off each year. Caribou use their antlers to scrape away ice and snow from the grasses and lichens they eat.

Most deer species eat leaves and foliage, though some also include grasses in their diet. They have a complex, chambered stomach and use bacteria that live in their stomachs to ferment their food.

Most deer species live in groups, and males are usually larger than females. Deer are important worldwide to humans and are widely hunted for meat and hides. Deer species have been introduced to many parts of the world where they didnt occur before and at least one species, reindeer, has become domesticated.

Deer species most often live in forested and semi-forested areas and grasslands from the tropics through arctic regions.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Cervidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 20, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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