The Nublar tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus nublarus) is a subspecies of the tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus) native to Isla Nublar. The Nublar tufted deer is described as the most common of the island’s endemic life forms. Its Tun-Si name is currently unknown, though the Bribri word for “deer” is mulubí.
Aside from Elaphodus cephalophus nublarus, there are three or four other tufted deer subspecies, chiefly found in China. One of these subspecies is debated among scientists, with little evidence to suggest that it actually exists. A small population is known from Myanmar, with most of the rest living in China. The Nublar tufted deer is the only subspecies found outside of Asia.
- Elaphodus cephalophus cephalophus, the largest, with a brown coat; found in southwest China and northeast Myanmar
- Elaphodus cephalophus michianus, with a narrower snout; found in southeast China
- Elaphodus cephalophus ichagensis, with a broader snout and grayish-brown coat; found in central China
- Elaphodus cephalophus forciensus, a disputed subspecies with unclear distribution
Overall, the tufted deer is considered Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The specific status of the Nublar tufted deer subspecies is unknown, but probably extinct.
The Nublar tufted deer grows to two feet (60 centimeters) tall. Assuming it closely resembles other tufted deer subspecies, it would have a somewhat long neck and long legs, making it appear taller, and be gray to brown in color. The coat of the tufted deer is made of stiff, short hairs; its coat is darker in the winter and a richer brown in the summer. Its lips are white, as are the tips of its ears and underside of its tail. The tail is about 3.9 inches (10 centimeters) long. Tufted deer are named for the horseshoe-shaped hair tuft found on the forehead. This tuft can grow up to 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) long.
While very small, it is larger than its relative the muntjac. The Nublar tufted deer is mid-sized for its species, with the other subspecies ranging between 20 and 28 inches (50 and 70 centimeters) in height and weighing between 37 to 66 pounds (17 to 30 kilograms).
Nothing is currently known about the growth stages of the Nublar tufted deer.
In other tufted deer subspecies, the primary difference between males and females is in the anatomy of the head. Males have a pair of fang-like canine teeth, which females lack. These fangs may be an inch in length. Males also have short antlers, though these may not be visible due to the tuft of hair on the head.
Unlike other subspecies of tufted deer, E. c. nublarus do not inhabit mountain habitats. Instead, they are mostly found in tropical forest, though Isla Nublar does have some smaller mountains with cloud forest environments as well. Avoiding open spaces, the Nublar tufted deer is typically found in shady areas. In Asia, tufted deer can tolerate some habitat disturbance and adapt to regions where humans live. The presence of dense undergrowth, abundant water, and salt licks are all beneficial to tufted deer.
This mammal is endemic to Isla Nublar, a small (22 square miles) volcanic island in the Gulf of Fernandez, found nowhere else in the world. It is considered the most common endemic species on the island. How it came to live here, thousands of miles from its close relatives, is unknown; no suitable scientific hypothesis has been proposed to explain how members of the species Elaphodus cephalophus were distributed from Asian mountains to an island near Costa Rica. Small mammals do distribute across wide distances via rafting, a process in which small populations become stranded on large pieces of debris and drift across the ocean to new habitats. This has never been documented in deer, and the tufted deer does not live near any of Asia’s coastlines.
Humans lived on Isla Nublar for thousands of years, but the tufted deer’s arrival seems to predate them. Its habitat remained mostly undisturbed until the 1980s, when Isla Nublar was leased from the Costa Rican government by a company called International Genetic Technologies for the purpose of building a de-extinction park. The building of Jurassic Park began in 1988 and altered the island’s ecosystem, although a significant amount of forest habitat did remain intact outside of the animal paddock areas. In June 1993, a serious safety incident led to InGen abandoning the park for a period of nine years, during which de-extinct animals and invasive goats roamed the island freely.
The tufted deer survived, and when InGen returned to the island and resumed construction, an agreement was made between its holding company Masrani Global Corporation and the Costa Rican Environmental Protection Society to preserve some unaltered habitat on the island. Despite the construction and operation of Jurassic World between April 2002 and December 2015, a stable breeding population of tufted deer survived in the unused parts of Isla Nublar. It was considered a very common animal during this time, not in immediate danger of extinction.
However, after a serious security scandal closed Jurassic World indefinitely in 2015, the de-extinct animals were allowed to roam the island without any regulation. The tufted deer were now subject to a huge number of predators which were no longer provided regular meals or kept within fenced-off areas. Their population probably suffered, and this was only made worse when volcanic activity commenced in 2017. Controversy surrounding de-extinct animal rights delayed any environmentalist aid coming to Isla Nublar, and when a destructive eruption of Mount Sibo began in June 2018, no action had been taken to preserve the endemic deer. It may have become extinct.
It is unknown if any Nublar tufted deer are housed in zoos anywhere in the world. If they are not, then this subspecies has probably become extinct as of mid-2018.
Behavior and Ecology
The Nublar tufted deer is generally described as nocturnal. However, it is sometimes active during the daytime, meaning that it is likely actually crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). Such a behavior pattern is known from the Asian tufted deer subspecies.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
Tufted deer are herbivorous. As they are found in both evergreen and deciduous forests, it can be inferred that they feed on plants found in these types of environments, but no specific information about their diet on Isla Nublar is known.
In Asian subspecies, the male tufted deer vigorously patrols his territory along fixed trails and will defend it against rivals. They are mainly solitary animals, but can be found in pairs.
In Asia, the tufted deer mating season takes place between September and December. Males make loud barking calls to attract mates. Gestation lasts six months, with one or two young being born in the early summer months. Sexual maturity is reached at one or two years old.
Because Isla Nublar is located in a vastly different part of the world, it is possible that the reproductive cycle of its endemic subspecies may have been distinct from those of the Asian subspecies.
Other subspecies of tufted deer are almost always quiet; however, they can bark. When startled, one will bark loudly as a form of warning as it flees, and males will bark during the mating season to attract the attention of females.
These small herbivores were low on the food chain on Isla Nublar. With native predators displaced by InGen‘s establishment, their primary predators were probably carnivorous dinosaurs. In the other Asian subspecies, males defend their territory against rivals but are timid in the face of danger. Tufted deer will hide in areas where they are well-camouflaged to avoid threats, and when attacked will let out a loud bark while bounding away with a catlike gait.
Prior to the introduction of dinosaurs in 1988, the largest known carnivore native to Isla Nublar was the common boa. It would likely have been the main predator of Nublar tufted deer. They were likely affected by native parasites and other pests, such as ticks and mosquitoes.
The Nublar tufted deer, as the island’s most common endemic organism, was long considered emblematic of Isla Nublar’s unique environment and ecosystem. Sadly, it was largely forgotten during the Mount Sibo controversy as de-extinct life took center stage and has probably become extinct.
At the moment it is not believed that any Nublar tufted deer are, or were, kept in captivity. While tufted deer can be housed in zoos if their natural environments are replicated properly, it is likely that the Nublar subspecies would have quite different housing needs than its upland Asian kin, and its specific details are not known. Its probable extinction means that such knowledge is now unfortunately lost to us.
The Nublar tufted deer is a bizarre case in that all of its other relatives within the tufted deer species are native to Asia, many thousands of miles from Isla Nublar, and do not inhabit coastal regions where they could feasibly end up on Pacific islands via rafting. Instead they live in mountainous areas. In order to evolve into a local subspecies, the tufted deer must have inhabited Isla Nublar for many generations. Even stranger, they are the most common endemic creature on the island, even more common than smaller native organisms such as birds, reptiles, and invertebrates, many of which seem to be species not exclusive to Isla Nublar. This provides valuable insight into the evolutionary history of Isla Nublar’s ecosystem, revealing it to be a strange one with much unknown history. Just how the tufted deer established on an offshore island near Costa Rica is a mystery, and with its probable extinction, this scientific oddity is likely to remain that way.
Tufted deer are, on the whole, listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with overhunting and habitat loss being their main threats. They are provincially protected in some parts of China, but are not nationally protected. Further research is ongoing to develop a more effective conservation plan.
In 2005, Masrani Global Corporation signed an agreement with the Costa Rican Environmental Protection Society to ensure that endemic life forms of Isla Nublar such as the Nublar tufted deer were protected from anthropogenic threats. However, protection for this mammal ended in late 2015 when Jurassic World was closed; no known efforts were made to ensure the deer’s survival in the face of hundreds of new predators being released into its environment. Three years later, the eruption of Mount Sibo prompted an effort to save the de-extinct creatures of the island, but the Nublar tufted deer did not receive similar attention.
Overshadowed by its dinosaurian contemporaries, this unique animal may now be extinct. This failure of environmental policy is due in part to de-extinction politics. While the Dinosaur Protection Group advocated for the rescue of Isla Nublar’s de-extinct animals, opposition to genetic engineering on an international scale led to the Costa Rican and U.S. federal governments as well as Masrani Global Corporation opting to leave Isla Nublar to its fate. While the DPG received the most publicity regarding the crisis on Isla Nublar, other famous wildlife activists also failed to consider the island’s indigenous life during the controversy.
Notably, no Tun-Si activists appear to have been interviewed by any of the major parties involved with the Mount Sibo controversy, despite the Tun-Si being Isla Nublar’s native people. Any efforts on their part to save this iconic Isla Nublar animal are therefore unfortunately undocumented.
This small animal is not usually hunted because it provides so little meat, but its fur is valued as a high-quality textile. The Nublar tufted deer could, at one point, have encouraged ecotourism to the island; however, it never got the chance since far more exciting de-extinct species were introduced into its habitat.
Other tufted deer subspecies sometimes come onto cultivated land, and can be a minor nuisance, but it is not known whether the Nublar tufted deer had any noticeable impact on Tun-Si land use. It probably had little effect on InGen’s later use of the island since it was not used for agriculture at that point.
Tufted deer are timid and often flee from human contact, but can become tolerant of human activity over time. They are not known to be aggressive. You can probably get these animals to back down from you fairly easily since you are much larger than they are. The males have noticeable fangs, and also have small antlers, but these are mostly for show and possibly intraspecific combat; they are not offensive weapons against other animals.
The tufted deer is mostly defenseless and relies on its small size and agility to evade predators. Nublar tufted deer are especially harmless because they are almost certainly extinct.