Confirmed archaeological evidence of water deer in Vietnam: relics of the Pleistocene or a shifting baseline?

Stimpson, C. M., O'Donnell, Shawn, Huong, N. T. M., Holmes, R., Utting, B., Kahlert, T. and Rabett, R. J. (2021) Confirmed archaeological evidence of water deer in Vietnam: relics of the Pleistocene or a shifting baseline? Royal Society Open Science, 8 (6). p. 210529. ISSN 2054-5703

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Studies of archaeological and palaeontological bone assemblages increasingly show that the historical distributions of many mammal species are unrepresentative of their longer-term geographical ranges in the Quaternary. Consequently, the geographical and ecological scope of potential conservation efforts may be inappropriately narrow. Here, we consider a case-in-point, the water deer Hydropotes inermis, which has historical native distributions in eastern China and the Korean peninsula. We present morphological and metric criteria for the taxonomic diagnosis of mandibles and maxillary canine fragments from Hang Thung Binh 1 cave in Tràng An World Heritage Site, which confirm the prehistoric presence of water deer in Vietnam. Dated to between 13 000 and 16 000 years before the present, the specimens are further evidence of a wider Quaternary distribution for these Vulnerable cervids, are valuable additions to a sparse Pleistocene fossil record and confirm water deer as a component of the Upper Pleistocene fauna of northern Vietnam. Palaeoenvironmental proxies suggest that the Tràng An water deer occupied cooler, but not necessarily drier, conditions than today. We consider if the specimens represent extirpated Pleistocene populations or indicate a previously unrecognized, longer-standing southerly distribution with possible implications for the conservation of the species in the future.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: Data accessibility. The data are provided in electronic supplementary material [94]. Authors’ contributions. C.M.S. and R.J.R. conceived the study; C.M.S. conducted analyses and identification and drafted the manuscript with contributions from all authors; C.M.S., R.H. and B.U. conducted the review of Quaternary records of Hydropotes inermis; C.M.S. and B.U. performed statistical tests; T.K. translated German language source material; C.M.S., B.U., R.J.R. and T.K. carried out excavation, site analysis and recording; S.O. and N.T.M.H. produced the palaeoenvironmental synthesis. All authors revised the manuscript and gave final approval for publication. Competing interests. We declare we have no competing interests. Funding. Funding for this project was provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Global Challenges Research Fund) award no. AH/N005902/1 to RR, a UKRI COVID-19 Grant Extension Allocation award and through the support of the Xuan Truong Construction Enterprise. Acknowledgements. We thank the Tràng An Management Board, the Ninh Binh Provincial People’s Committee and Xuan Truong Construction Enterprise for ongoing support for research in Tràng An. Dr Alex Wilshaw cleaned and conserved the archaeological material in the field. We thank all our colleagues from the SUNDASIA project field teams, Ninh Binh People’s Museum, Vietnamese Institute of Archaeology (Hanoi) and Tràng An Management Board. C.M.S. would like to acknowledge the assistance and support of Eileen Westwig, Mark Carnall, Eliza Howlett and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. The study benefited from access to the comparative museum collections, as well as those of the American Museum of Natural History and Natural History Museum, UK. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their encouraging comments and constructive criticism, which improved the content and structure of the manuscript.
Uncontrolled Keywords: zooarchaeology, Pleistocene, Hydropotes inermis, water deer, Vietnam
Subjects: F400 Forensic and Archaeological Science
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2021 12:05
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2021 12:15

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