deer

deer

[deer]
deer, ruminant mammal of the family Cervidae, found in most parts of the world except Australia. Antlers, solid bony outgrowths of the skull, develop in the males of most species and are shed and renewed annually. They are at first covered by "velvet," a soft, hairy skin permeated by blood vessels. The stem of the antler is called the beam, and the branches are the tines. Antlers are used as weapons during breeding-season combats between bucks. In deer that lack antlers (the musk deer and Chinese river deer), long upper canines serve as weapons. Deer are polygamous. They eat a variety of herbaceous plants, lichens, mosses, and tree leaves and bark.

The white-tailed deer that live in woodlands throughout the United States and in Central America and N South America was a source of food, buckskin, and other necessities for Native Americans and white settlers. Deer flesh, called venison, is still considered a delicacy. Slaughter through the years nearly exterminated the whitetail, but it is now restored in large numbers in the E United States and to a lesser extent in the West. In summer its upper parts are reddish brown, in winter grayish. The mule deer exists in reduced numbers from the Plains region westward, and the closely related black-tailed deer is a Pacific coast form.

Old World deer include the red deer, closely related to the North American wapiti, the fallow deer, and the axis deer. The only deer in Africa are small numbers of red deer found in the north in a forested area. The barking deer, or muntjac, is a small deer of S Asia. A muntjac discovered in N Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 1997 is believed to be the smallest deer in the world. Called the leaf deer, Muntiacus putaoensis, it stands about 20 in. (45 cm) at the shoulder. The misleadingly named mouse deer, or chevrotain, is not a deer, but belongs to a related family (Tragulidae). Many species of deer are threatened with extinction. Deer are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Cervidae.

See also caribou; elk; moose; Père David's deer; reindeer.

or Virginia deer

White-tailed deer buck (Odocoileus virginianus)

Common reddish brown deer (Odocoileus virginianus), an important game animal found alone or in small groups from southern Canada to South America. The tail, white on the underside, is held aloft when the deer is alarmed or running. The male has forwardly curved antlers with several unbranched tines. Northern white-tailed deer grow up to 3.5 ft (107 cm) tall and weigh up to 400 lbs (180 kg). The white-tailed deer lives in open woodlands (young and cutover forests) and on the fringes of urban areas and farmlands, and eats leaves, twigs, fruits, nuts, lichen, and fungi.

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Roe deer buck (Capreolus capreolus).

Almost tailless Eurasian deer (Capreolus capreolus), found in small family groups in lightly forested regions. It stands 26–34 in. (66–86 cm) at the shoulder. Its coat is reddish brown in summer and grayish brown, with a conspicuous white rump patch, in winter. The male has short, usually three-tined antlers roughened at the base. When alarmed, the deer barks like a dog.

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Species of deer (Cervus elaphus), sometimes called elk, native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is found in woodlands and hunted for sport and food. Red deer live in sexually segregated herds except in the breeding season, when males (harts) fight for harems of females (hinds). Red deer stand about 4 ft (1.2 m) high at the shoulder. The coat is reddish brown, with lighter underparts and a light rump. The hart has long, regularly branched antlers bearing 10 or more tines. There are several endangered subspecies. Seealso wapiti.

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Mule deer buck (Odocoileus hemionus).

Large-eared deer (Odocoileus hemionus) of western North America that lives alone or in small groups at high altitudes in summer and lower altitudes in winter. Mule deer stand 3–3.5 ft (90–105 cm) and are yellowish brown in summer, grayish brown in winter. The tail is white with a black tip, except on the black-tailed deer (O. h. columbianus), a Pacific Northwest subspecies. The male's antlers fork twice above a short tine near the base; a mature male normally has five tines on each antler. It is related to the white-tailed deer.

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or mouse deer

Any of several species (family Tragulidae) of small, delicately built ruminants of Asia and Africa. Resembling tiny deer, chevrotains stand about 12 in. (30 cm) at the shoulder and seem to walk on their hooftips. Their fur is reddish brown with spots and pale stripes. Males have small, curved tusks protruding downward from the upper jaw. Shy and solitary, they are active at night. Asiatic chevrotains are found in forests from India to the Philippines. The water chevrotain of western equatorial Africa inhabits thick cover on the banks of rivers and seeks escape in the water when disturbed.

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or white-footed mouse

Any of about 60 species (genus Peromyscus, family Cricetidae) of small, delicate rodents that are active at night and are found in habitats from Alaska to South America. They often outnumber all other mammals in an area. Deer mice are 3–6.5 in. (8–17 cm) long (excluding the long tail) and have large eyes, soft fur, and relatively large ears. Colours range from white to brown or blackish, with white underparts and feet. They eat plant and animal matter and nest in burrows or trees. Clean, easily cared for, and prolific, they are often used as laboratory animals.

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Rival European red deer stags (Cervus elaphus) fighting for possession of a hind in the elipsis

Any of the ruminants in the family Cervidae, which have two large and two small hooves on each foot and antlers on the males of most species and on the females of some species. Deer live mainly in forests but may be found in deserts, tundra, and swamps and on high mountainsides. They are native to Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and northern Africa and have been introduced widely elsewhere. Females are usually called does, and males bucks. Deer range in shoulder height from the 12-in. (30-cm) pudu (genus Pudu) to the 6.5-ft (2-m) moose. They typically have a compact body, short tail, and long, slender ears. They shed their antlers each year, and new ones grow in. The general form of the antler varies among species. Deer feed on grass, twigs, bark, and shoots. They are hunted for their meat, hides, and antlers. Seealso caribou, elk, mule deer, muntjac, red deer, roe deer, white-tailed deer.

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or barking deer

Chinese muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi)

Any of about seven species of solitary, nocturnal deer, native to Asia and introduced into England and France, that constitute the genus Muntiacus (family Cervidae). Named for their cry, most species stand 15–25 in. (40–65 cm) high, weigh 33–77 lbs (15–35 kg), and are grayish, reddish, or brown. Males have tusklike upper canine teeth and short one-branched antlers. Bony ridges extend from the antler base onto the face. The giant muntjac (88–110 lbs, or 40–50 kg) was discovered in northern Vietnam in 1993–94. Fea's muntjac (M. feae), of Myanmar and Thailand, is endangered, and other muntjac species are threatened.

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A deer is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. A number of broadly similar animals from related families within the order Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates) are often also called deer. Male deer of all species, except the Chinese water deer, grow and shed new antlers each year, as opposed to horned animals such as antelope—these are in the same order as deer and may bear a superficial resemblance, but they are permanently horned. The Musk deer of Asia and Mouse Deer or Water Chevrotain of tropical African and Asian forests are not true deer and form their own families, "Moschidae" and Tragulidae, respectively. All other animals in Africa resembling deer are antelope.

Etymology

The word deer was originally quite broad in meaning, but became more specific over time. In Middle English, der (O.E. dēor) meant a wild animal of any kind (as opposed to cattle, which meant any domestic livestock). This general sense gave way to the modern sense by the end of the Middle English period, around 1500. The German word Tier, the Dutch word dier and the Scandinavian words djur/dyr/dýr, cognates of English deer, still have the general sense of "animal". The adjective of relation pertaining to deer is cervine.

Depending on their size and species, male deer are called bucks (smallest), stags, or bulls (largest) and females are called does, hinds or cows. Young deer are called kids, fawns or calves. A group of deer is commonly called a herd. Hart, from Old English heorot "deer", is an alternative term for a stag, particularly a Red Deer stag past its fifth year (compare with the modern Dutch word hert meaning deer). The county Hertfordshire is named after a place where deer ford a watercourse. The word hart is not commonly used, but Shakespeare makes several references, punning on the sound-alike "hart" and "heart", for example in Twelfth Night. "The White Hart" and "The Red Hart" are common English pub names. Whinfell Forest once contained a landmark tree called Harthorn. The word "Hart" also exists in Saterfrisian, being a synonym for the Word "Hirsk" which is more similar to the German Word "Hirsch".

Habitat

Deer are widely distributed, and hunted, with indigenous representatives in all continents except Antarctica and Australia, though Africa has only one native species confined to the Atlas Mountains in the northwest of the continent, the Red Deer.

Deer live in a variety of biomes ranging from tundra to the tropical rainforest. While often associated with forests, many deer are ecotone species that live in transitional areas between forests and thickets (for cover) and prairie and savanna (open space). The majority of large deer species inhabit temperate mixed deciduous forest, mountain mixed coniferous forest, tropical seasonal/dry forest, and savanna habitats around the world. Clearing open areas within forests to some extent may actually benefit deer populations by exposing the understory and allowing the types of grasses, weeds, and herbs to grow that deer like to eat. Additionally, access to adjacent croplands may also benefit deer. However, adequate forest or brush cover must still be provided for populations to grow and thrive.

Small species such as the brocket deer and pudus of Central and South America, and the muntjacs of Asia generally occupy dense forests and are less often seen in open spaces, with the possible exception of the Red Brocket and the Indian Muntjac. There are also several species of deer that are highly specialized, and live almost exclusively in mountains, grasslands, swamps and "wet" savannas, or riparian corridors surrounded by deserts. Some deer have a circumpolar distribution in both North America and Eurasia. Examples include the reindeer (caribou) that live in Arctic tundra and taiga (boreal forests) and moose that inhabit taiga and adjacent areas. Huemul Deer (taruca and Chilean Huemul) of South America's Andes Mountains fill an ecological niche of the ibex or wild goat, with the fawns behave more like goat kids.

The highest concentration of large deer species in temperate North America lies in the Canadian Rocky Mountain and Columbia Mountain Regions between Alberta and British Columbia where all five North American deer species (White-tailed Deer, Mule deer, Caribou, Elk, and Moose) can be found. This is a region has several clusters of national parks including Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park (Canada), Yoho National Park, and Kootenay National Park on the British Columbia side, and Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Glacier National Park (U.S.) on the Alberta and Montana sides. Mountain slope habitats vary from moist coniferous/mixed forested habitats to dry subalpine/pine forests with alpine meadows higher up. The foothills and river valleys between the mountain ranges provide a mosaic of cropland and deciduous parklands. The rare woodland caribou have the most restricted range living at higher altitudes in the subalpine meadows and alpine tundra areas of some of the mountain ranges. Elk and Mule Deer both migrate between the alpine meadows and lower coniferous forests and tend to be most common in this region. Elk also inhabit river valley bottomlands, which they share with white-tailed deer. The White-tailed Deer have recently expanded their range within the foothills and river valley bottoms of the Canadian Rockies owing to conversion of land to cropland and the clearing of coniferous forests allowing more deciduous vegetation to grow up the mountain slopes. They also live in the aspen parklands north of Calgary and Edmonton, where they share habitat with the moose. The adjacent Great Plains grassland habitats are left to herds of Elk, American bison, and pronghorn antelope.

The Eurasian Continent (including the Indian Subcontinent) boasts the most species of deer in the world, with most species being found in Asia. Europe, in comparison, has lower diversity in plant and animal species. However, many national parks and protected reserves in Europe do have populations of Red Deer, Roe Deer, and Fallow Deer. These species have long been associated with the Continent of Europe, but also inhabit Asia Minor, the Caucasus Mountains, and Northwestern Iran. "European" Fallow Deer historically occurred over much of Europe during the Ice Ages, but afterwards became restricted primarily to the Anatolian Peninsula, in present-day Turkey. Present-day Fallow deer populations in Europe are a result of historic man-made introductions of this species first to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, then eventually to the rest of Europe. They were initially park animals that later escaped and re-established themselves in the wild. Historically, Europe's deer species shared their deciduous forest habitat with other herbivores such as the extinct tarpan (forest horse), extinct aurochs (forest ox), and the endangered wisent (European bison). Good places to see deer in Europe include the Scottish Highlands, the Austrian Alps, the wetlands between Austria, Hungary, and Czech Republic. Some fine National Parks include Donana National Park in Spain, the Veluwe in Netherlands, the Ardennes in Belgium, and Bialowieza National Park of Poland. Spain, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus Mountains still have virgin forest areas that are not only home to sizable deer populations but also for other animals that were once abundant such as the wisent, Eurasian lynx, Spanish lynx, wolves, and brown bears.

The highest concentration of large deer species in temperate Asia occurs in the mixed deciduous forests, mountain coniferous forests, and taiga bordering North Korea, Manchuria (Northeastern China), and the Ussuri Region (Russia). These are among some of the richest deciduous and coniferous forests in the world where one can find Siberian Roe Deer, Sika Deer, Elk, and Moose. Asian Caribou occupy the northern fringes of this region along the Sino-Russian border.

Deer such as the Sika Deer, Thorold's Deer, Central Asian Red Deer, and Elk have historically been farmed for their antlers by Han Chinese, Turkic peoples, Tungusic peoples, Mongolians, and Koreans. Like the Sami people of Finland and Scandinavia, the Tungusic peoples, Mongolians, and Turkic peoples of Southern Siberia, Northern Mongolia, and the Ussuri Region have also taken to raising semi-domesticated herds of Asian caribou.

The highest concentration of large deer species in the tropics occurs in Southern Asia in Northern India's Indo-Gangetic Plain Region and Nepal's Terai Region. These fertile plains consist of tropical seasonal moist deciduous, dry deciduous forests, and both dry and wet savannas that are home to Chital, Hog Deer, Barasingha, Indian Sambar, and Indian Muntjac. Grazing species such as the endangered Barasingha and very common Chital are gregarious and live in large herds. Indian Sambar can be gregarious but are usually solitary or live in smaller herds. Hog Deer are solitary and have lower densities than Indian Muntjac. Deer can be seen in several national parks in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka of which Kanha National Park, Dudhwa National Park, and Chitwan National Park are most famous. Sri Lanka's Wilpattu National Park and Yala National Park have large herds of Indian sambar and chital deer. The Indian sambar are more gregarious in Sri Lanka than other parts of their range and tend to form larger herds than elsewhere.

The Chao Praya River Valley of Thailand was once primarily tropical seasonal moist deciduous forest and wet savanna that hosted populations of Hog Deer, the now-extinct Schomburgk's Deer, the Eld's Deer, Indian Sambar, and Indian Muntjac. Both the Hog Deer and Eld's Deer are rare, whereas Indian Sambar and Indian Muntjac thrive in protected national parks such as Khao Yai.

Many of these South Asian and Southeast Asian deer species also share their habitat with various herbivores such as Asian elephants, various Asian rhinoceros species, various antelope species (such as nilgai, four-horned antelope, blackbuck, and Indian gazelle in India), and wild oxen (such as Wild Asian Water Buffalo, gaur, banteng, and kouprey).

Australia has six introduced species of deer that have established sustainable wild populations from Acclimatisation Society releases in the 19th Century. These are Fallow Deer, Red Deer, Sambar Deer, Hog Deer, Rusa deer, and Chital Deer. Red Deer introduced into New Zealand in 1851 from English and Scottish stock were domesticated in deer farms by the late 1960s and are common farm animals there now. Seven other species of deer were introduced into New Zealand but none are as widespread as Red Deer.

Biology

Extant deer range in size from the 10-kg Northern Pudú to the 450-kg Moose. They generally have lithe, compact bodies and long, powerful legs suited for rugged woodland terrain. Deer are also excellent swimmers. Deer are ruminants, or cud-chewers, and have a four-chambered stomach. The teeth of deer are adapted to feeding on vegetation, and like other ruminants, they lack upper incisors, instead having a tough pad at the front of their upper jaw. The Chinese water deer and Tufted deer have enlarged upper canine teeth forming sharp tusks, while other species often lack upper canines altogether. The cheek teeth of deer have crescent ridges of enamel, which enable them to grind a wide variety of vegetation. The dental formula for deer is:

Nearly all deer have a facial gland in front of each eye. The gland contains a strongly scented pheromone, used to mark its home range. Bucks of a wide range of species open these glands wide when angry or excited. All deer have a liver without a gallbladder. Deer also have a Tapetum lucidum which gives them sufficiently good night vision.

A doe generally has one or two fawns at a time (triplets, while not unknown, are uncommon). The gestation period is anywhere up to ten months for the European roe deer. Most fawns are born with their fur covered with white spots, though they lose their spots once they get older (excluding the Fallow Deer who keeps its spots for life). In the first twenty minutes of a fawn's life, the fawn begins to take its first steps. Its mother licks it clean until it is almost free of scent, so predators will not find it. Its mother leaves often, and the fawn does not like to be left behind. Sometimes its mother must gently push it down with her foot. The fawn stays hidden in the grass for one week until it is strong enough to walk with its mother. The fawn and its mother stay together for about one year. A male usually never sees his mother again, but females sometimes come back with their own fawns and form small herds.

Deer are selective feeders. They are usually browsers, and primarily feed on leaves. They have small, unspecialized stomachs by ruminant standards, and high nutrition requirements. Rather than attempt to digest vast quantities of low-grade, fibrous food as, for example, sheep and cattle do, deer select easily digestible shoots, young leaves, fresh grasses, soft twigs, fruit, fungi, and lichens.

Antlers

With the exception of the Chinese water deer, all male deer have antlers that are shed and regrown each year from a structure called a pedicle. Sometimes a female will have a small stub. The only female deer with antlers are Reindeer (Caribou). Antlers grow as highly vascular spongy tissue covered in a skin called velvet. Before the beginning of a species' mating season, the antlers calcify under the velvet and become hard bone. The velvet is then torn away leaving hard antlers. After the mating season, the pedicle and the antler base are separated by a layer of tissue, and the antler falls off.

The one way that many hunters are able to track main paths that the deer travel on is because of their "rubs". A rub is used to deposit scent from glands near the eye and forehead and physically mark territory.

During the mating season, bucks use their antlers to fight one another for the opportunity to attract mates in a given herd. The two bucks circle each other, bend back their legs, lower their heads, and charge.

Each species has its own characteristic antler structure, e.g. each white-tailed deer antler includes a series of tines sprouting upward from a forward-curving main beam. Mule deer (and Black-tailed deer), species within the same genus as the white-tailed deer, instead have bifurcated (or branched) antlers—that is, the main beam splits into two, each of which may split into two more.

Most species of deer in the "True Deer" subfamily (Cervinae) have large, impressive antlers with several tines are highly prized by game hunters and collectors. Four Members of the Odocoleinae subfamily whose antlers are also popular and sought after are the moose, caribou, white-tailed deer, and mule deer. The most impressive white-tailed deer antlers come from populations in Texas, Northern Great Plains Region, Great Lakes Region, and the Piedmont (United States). The most impressive mule deer antlers come from populations in the Rocky Mountains. The most impressive moose and caribou antlers come from populations living in Siberia, Canada, and Alaska. For Elk and Red Deer, a stag having 14 points is an "imperial", and a stag having 12 points is a "royal". If the antlers deviate from the species' normal antler structure, the deer is considered a non-typical deer.

Evolution

The earliest fossil deer date from the Oligocene of Europe, and resembled the modern muntjacs. Later species were often larger, with more impressive antlers, and, in many cases, lost of the upper canine teeth. They rapidly spread to the other continents, even for a time occupying much of northern Africa, where they are now almost wholly absent. Some extinct deer had huge antlers, larger than those of any living species. Examples include Eucladoceros, and the giant deer Megaloceros, whose antlers stretched to 3.5 metres across.

Economic significance

Deer have long had economic significance to humans. Deer meat, for which they are hunted and farmed, is called venison. Deer organ meat is called umble. See humble pie.

The Sami of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula of Russia and other nomadic peoples of northern Asia use reindeer for food, clothing, and transport.

The caribou in North America, is not domesticated or herded as is the case of reindeer (the same species) in Europe but is important as a quarry animal to the Inuit. Most commercial venison in the United States is imported from New Zealand.

Deer were originally brought to New Zealand by European settlers, and the deer population rose rapidly. This caused great environmental damage and was controlled by hunting and poisoning until the concept of deer farming developed in the 1960s. Deer farms in New Zealand number more than 3,500, with more than 400,000 deer in all.

Automobile collisions with deer can impose a significant cost on the economy. In the U.S., about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cause about 150 deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage annually.

Taxonomy

Note that the terms indicate the origin of the groups, not their modern distribution: the water deer, for example, is a New World species but is found only in China and Korea.

It is thought that the new world group evolved about 5 million years ago in the forests of North America and Siberia, the old world deer in Asia.

Subfamilies, genera and species

The family Cervidae is organized as follows:

Hybrid deer

In Origin of Species (1859) Charles Darwin wrote "Although I do not know of any thoroughly well-authenticated cases of perfectly fertile hybrid animals, I have some reason to believe that the hybrids from Cervulus vaginalis and Reevesii [...] are perfectly fertile." These two varieties of muntjac are currently considered the same species.

A number of deer hybrids are bred to improve meat yield in farmed deer. American Elk (or Wapiti) and Red Deer from the Old World can produce fertile offspring in captivity, and were once considered one species. Hybrid offspring, however, must be able to escape and defend themselves against predators, and these hybrid offspring are unable to do so in the wild state. Recent DNA, animal behavior studies, and morphology and antler characteristics have shown there are not one but three species of Red Deer: European Red Deer, Central Asian Red Deer, and American Elk or Wapiti. (The European Elk is a different species and is known as moose in North America.) The hybrids are about 30% more efficient in producing antler by comparing velvet to body weight. Wapiti have been introduced into some European Red Deer herds to improve the Red Deer type, but not always with the intended improvement.

In New Zealand, where deer are introduced species, there are hybrid zones between Red Deer and North American Wapiti populations and also between Red Deer and Sika Deer populations. In New Zealand Red Deer have been artificially hybridized with Pere David Deer in order to create a farmed deer which gives birth in spring. The initial hybrids were created by artificial insemination and back-crossed to Red Deer. However, such hybrid offspring can only survive in captivity free of predators.

In Canada, the farming of European Red Deer and Red Deer hybrids is considered a threat to native Wapiti. In Britain, the introduced Sika Deer is considered a threat to native Red Deer. Initial Sika Deer/Red Deer hybrids occur when young Sika stags expand their range into established red deer areas and have no Sika hinds to mate with. They mate instead with young Red hinds and produce fertile hybrids. These hybrids mate with either Sika or Red Deer (depending which species is prevalent in the area), resulting in mongrelization. Many of the Sika Deer which escaped from British parks were probably already hybrids for this reason. These hybrids do not properly inherit survival strategies and can only survive in either a captive state or when there are no predators.

In captivity, Mule Deer have been mated to White-tail Deer. Both male Mule Deer/female White-tailed Deer and male White-tailed Deer/female Mule Deer matings have produced hybrids. Less than 50% of the hybrid fawns survived their first few months. Hybrids have been reported in the wild but are disadvantaged because they don't properly inherit survival strategies. Mule Deer move with bounding leaps (all 4 hooves hit the ground at once, also called "stotting") to escape predators. Stotting is so specialized that only 100% genetically pure Mule Deer seem able to do it. In captive hybrids, even a one-eighth White-tail/seven-eighths Mule Deer hybrid has an erratic escape behaviour and would be unlikely to survive to breeding age. Hybrids do survive on game ranches where both species are kept and where predators are controlled by man.

Cultural significance

Heraldry

Deer are represented in heraldry by the stag or hart (or less often by the hind). Stag's heads and antlers also appear as charges.

Examples can be found in the arms of Hertfordshire and its county town of Hertford, both examples of canting arms (a heraldic pun).

Several Norwegian municipalities have a stag or stag's head in their arms: Gjemnes, Hitra, Hjartdal and Voss.

A deer appears on the arms of the Israeli Postal Authority (see Hebrew Wikipedia page )

Literature and art

See also

References

External links

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