Cave Paintings Reveal Mystery Species Of Bison Hybrid

Posted: Oct 19 2016, 4:58am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Cave Paintings Reveal Mystery Species of Bison Hybrid
Credit: MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images
  • Bison-Cattle Hybrid Species found from Old DNA and Cave Drawings

An enigmatic bison hybrid has been found from samples of old DNA and cave drawings drawn by cavemen.

Research was carried out on ancient DNA and cave drawings from the previous Ice Age. It revealed an unknown species of hybrid bison. The bison was termed the Higgs Boson because just like the mysterious aubatomic particle, its existence had been in doubt.

It took a decade and a half of lengthy research for evidence of the existence of the bison to surface. Now though thanks to ancient DNA taken from the creature’s bones, it has been proven that the bison was a hybrid animal.

It had its origins approximately 120,000 years ago. That was a time when the aurochs and the steppe bison got together and gave rise to this hybrid bison.

On the whole, hybrid animals are not exactly a success story. That is because the males are often sterile. Yet this hybrid bison survived quite well. The modern day European bison known as wisent are still alive even today.

Basically the aurochs and bison are two different types of animals. However, when they got together, they produced a species that survived not only the last Ice Age but continues to inhabit the world even today.

Furthermore, the discovery of this species shows that the steppe bison competed with this hybrid variant during the tens of thousands of years of prehistory.

The genetic background of this hybrid bison remained a mystery for scientists. To solve this conundrum, a team of researchers examined the relics left behind by the creature.

These were specifically, its bones and teeth. Exhumed from a series of caves in Europe, the Ural mountains in Russia and the Caucasus mountains in Eurasia, these remains provided vital clues as to the genetic heritage of the hybrid bison.

DNA from 64 different bison was studied by the scientists. The mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA were studied to boot. While the nuclear DNA suggested that it belonged to the steppe bison, the mitochondrial DNA told a different story. It belonged to cattle in the form of aurochs.

The creature is thus a hybrid and there are no two ways about it. The ratio of the variants in the DNA show that after the first hybridization, a bit of back breeding also took place with steppe bison.

However, the researchers have yet to find a hybrid skull. Maybe more investigation will lead to the discovery of this vital source of clues regarding hybrid bison. For now the cave drawings are the only other sign that such interbreeding of steppe bison and aurochs took place so long ago.

This research was led by the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide and it got published in the journal Nature Communications.

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