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. The Nublar tufted deer is the only one found outside of Eurasia.
- Elaphodus cephalophus cephalophus, found in China, Myanmar, and recently Afghanistan
- Elaphodus cephalophus michianus, found in China
- Elaphodus cephalophus ichagensis, found in China
- Elaphodus cephalophus forciensus, a disputed subspecies with unclear distribution
The Nublar tufted deer grows to two feet (0.6 meters) 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. Tufted deer are named for the horseshoe-shaped hair tuft found on the forehead.
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.
The Nublar tufted deer is the most common endemic species on Isla Nublar, and is found nowhere else in the world. Its closest relatives, other subspecies of Elaphodus cephalophus, are found mainly in China, with possible populations in Myanmar and Afghanistan; there are currently no hypotheses with solid evidence to explain how a subspecies occurred on Isla Nublar, Costa Rica.
Unlike other subspecies of tufted deer, E. c. nublarus do not inhabit mountain habitats. Instead, they are mostly found in jungles, though Isla Nublar does have some smaller mountains as well. Avoiding open spaces, the Nublar tufted deer is typically found in shady areas. In real life, 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.
While the construction of Jurassic Park likely impacted its populations between 1988 and 1993, a significant amount of forest habitat remained unaltered on the island. The tufted deer is known to have survived with a stable breeding population despite the alterations to its ecosystem.
The Nublar tufted deer remained very common on Isla Nublar until the 2015 incident which closed Jurassic World. After this, most of the park’s de-extinct animals were simply let loose into the wild as the island was abandoned. The deer would then have been heavily preyed upon, their populations possibly decimated between late 2015 and mid-2018. It is unknown if any survived the June 23, 2018 volcanic eruption of Mount Sibo. If any did survive, they would have faced a dramatic loss of food and habitat. It is possible that this subspecies has become completely extinct.
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 constrictor. 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.
Relationship to Humans
Tufted deer are timid and often flee from human contact, but can become tolerant of human activity over time. They are sometimes seen on cultivated land.
In 2005, Masrani Global Corporation signed an agreement with the Costa Rican Environmental Protection Society to ensure that endemic life forms 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.