The origins of the iconic Irish red deer was a controversial topic. Was this species native to Ireland, or introduced?
In a new study that was published 30 March 2012 in the scientific journal Quaternary Science Reviews, a multinational team of researchers from Ireland, Austria, UK and USA have finally answered this question.
By comparing DNA from ancient bone specimens to DNA obtained from modern animals, the researchers discovered that the Kerry red deer are the direct descendants of deer present in Ireland 5000 years ago. Further analysis using DNA from European deer proves that Neolithic people from Britain first brought the species to Ireland.
Although proving the red deer is not native to Ireland, researchers believe that the Kerry population is unique as it is directly related to the original herd and are worthy of special conservation status.