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Of late, however, there has been much debate over the validity of Ungulata as a taxonomic clade; as recently as 2004 Andrew Duff and Ann Lawson included the Ungulata as a grandorder in their checklist of mammals of the world.Nonetheless, the current consensus is that the ungulates don’t represent a genetic unit; that is to say that they’re not a group of mammals more closely related to one another than to other (non-ungulate) mammals.The first major sticking point we encounter now is on the placement of the order Cetacea (the whales and dolphins).Molecular data strongly supports the view of renowned mammalogist Sir William Flower who, in 1891 proposed -- based on similarities in the larynx and several internal organs -- that the cetaceans should be grouped with the deer (and other related mammals) currently placed in the Artiodactyla order; this would form an, as yet unranked, group called the Cetartiodactyla.All of the critters that we know as mammals are grouped together within the class Mammalia; within this class sits an infraclass ( being Latin for “below”) called the Eutheria (or "true beasts"), which contains all the placental mammals (that is, all mammals except monotremes like the platypus and marsupials like the kangaroos).It is reasonably well established that the Eutheria can be broadly divided into four superorders: the Euarchontoglires (primates, rodents, hares and rabbits); the Xenarthra (anteaters and armadillos); the Afrotheria (elephants and manatees); and, of interest to us here, the Laurasiatheria, which holds the deer (along with various other critters including cows, bats and all the carnivores).
Indeed, ungulates have evolved to walk on what are effectively their tiptoes and this condition is referred to as an unguligrade gait.
The order holds ten families, between 79 and 81 genera (depending on the classification one prefers) and around 230 species, including pigs, peccaries, hippopotamuses, camels, giraffes, sheep, cows and, of course, deer.
The Artiodactyla can be further divided into four suborders; the one we’re interested in is the Ruminatia.
However, given the currently tenuous status of Cetaritodactyla as a clade in its own right, I have opted to follow a more ‘mainstream’ scheme here.
By this point, you might be wondering what happened to deer being ungulates (i.e.