Ancient Cave Art points towards Mysterious Ice Age Bison Species

Ancient Cave Art points towards Mysterious Ice Age Bison Species

Scientists have claimed about a mysterious species hybrid bison after carefully analyzing ancient DNA and ice age cave paintings. The unknown species of hybrid bison has been named as ‘Higgs Bison’ by the research team. The research team claims that the bison originated 120,000 years back as per the research paper published in journal Nature Communications. Researchers have been working on this project for 15 years and have finally found samples of DNA which point towards existence of hybrid bison species in the past.

The research team working on the project was able to collect DNA samples, including teeth and bones, from various places in in Europe, the Ural mountains in Russia and the Caucasus mountains in Eurasia. The research has thrown light on Europe’s largest land mammal that thrived on the continent in the past. The research was conducted by an international team of researchers from different research institutes.

As the bison species has been elusive like Higgs Boson, the research team has named the species as ‘Higgs Bison’. The European bison are still alive but aren’t roaming in the wild, as they used to do on the continent in the past. Earlier research had indicated that all bison roaming in Europe before the Ice age, belonged to steppe bison species. Soon after steppe bison disappeared from the region, European bison took over.

The European bison is currently found in the Białowieza forest between Poland and Belarus only. The species suffered massive loss in its population due to habitat loss.

Researchers also feel that nearly 120,000 years ago, steppe bison and ancient cows created a hybrid species. This species was able to survive for centuries.

Study author Dr Julien Soubrier, from the University of Adelaide said, "When we asked, French cave researchers told us that there were indeed two distinct forms of bison art in Ice Age caves, and it turns out their ages match those of the different species."

“We contacted some French scientists who work on the cave art and asked them, ‘Have you ever noticed anything funny about the bison? Because we have [discovered] a second species,” Cooper recalled. “They said, ‘Ah, at last! Someone finally believes us. We’ve been telling our colleagues for years that there are two forms of bison in the cave,’ which had been previously explained as artistic or cultural or stylistic differences.”

"We were surprised to find that the DNA we were getting back from these bones didn't look entirely like the modern European bison, they looked quite different," lead researcher Prof Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide.