World’s Newest Deer Weighs as Much as a Dachshund

There’s a pint-sized new ruminant prowling the Peruvian lowlands — but if you don’t look closely, you could miss it altogether.

That’s because the diminutive deer only stands about 35cm high at the shoulder, and weighs only a little more than a housecat (about 7 kilograms).

Nobody would blame you for missing the newly differentiated Pudella carlae in the cloudy mountain forests of Peru. Researchers made the same oversight, in fact, for 60 years.

A recent paper in the Journal of Mammalogy details the new finding. Taxonomists used to classify the stocky dwarf deer into a group with both its close cousins, the Pudu mephistopheles and Pudu puda.

But recent field observations made it clear that P. carlae is a whole new (pint-sized) beast. That makes it the first cervid (the family of ruminants that includes deer) discovered in the Western hemisphere since the 1960s.

The deer that would become P. carlae first caught researcher Javier Barro’s eye in southern Peru’s sprawling grasslands.

“He’d seen the animals in the field, and they looked different from others in the north,” fellow study author Guillermo D’Elia told New Scientist.

Northern Peru’s cloud forests are home to P. mephistopheles. Could it be that this lowland grazer was actually a different species? The scientists leaned into the effort to find out. Exhaustive observation of behavior and coat patterns, body measurements, and genetic testing eventually proved the novelty Barro expected.

They later discovered it appears to live only in Peru’s Huancabamba Depression.

“We don’t yet know if the new species arose from a population that became isolated when the depression formed, or from animals that later colonized and adapted, but we intend to find out,” said D’Elia.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.