The unknown origins of the present-day European bison might have finally been revealed. Some cave paintings dating from the Ice Age have been found. They reveal that the huge animal we all know today was once free to roam in the wild. Now, the bison can only be found in protected reserves and in certain areas.
- The bison is considered to be Europe’s largest mammal
- Now, they can be found only in reserves and are under protection
- The Bison bonasus can get as heavy as a modern-day car
According to some thorough DNA analysis, the animal was born from the extinct steppe bison and the auroch. And this mammal is as old as 120,000 years. This study was supported by some ancient cave paintings which show animals with features similar to those of the bison. The people from the Ice Age depicted them with horns and big humps on their backs.
A doctor from the University of Adelaide explained that the French cave researchers have found some striking evidence regarding the age of the bison. They have noticed two kinds of such mammals depicted on the wall of the caves. This led them to the conclusion that the modern-day bison is an inbreeding of those two. It is very interesting and funny at the same time that the cave people actually helped scientists with this discovery. They painted both species. All the scientists had to do was look a little bit closer.
Some very old records of fossils have shown that two types of bovids were once roaming the European lands. Bovids include cattle, sheep and goats. Among them, the aurochs and the steppe bison. The auroch is the ancestor of the cow. This is especially interesting because, genetically speaking, cows and bisons do not have very much in common. Hybrids of those two animals are extremely rare, and when they are finally born, they are usually unable to reproduce.
The scientists were amazed by the fact that hybridization led to an entire new species of animals. According to them, this happens very rarely, almost never.
The researchers over in Adelaide used the bones from 64 ancient bison. This has been done in order to better understand the exact origin of the animal. This sis how they came to the conclusion that the modern bison is actually a hybrid. The offspring of the auroch (a ferocious beast) and the steppe bison (which was roaming the lands of Russia, even Alaska, and it extended as far as Mexico and the Americas).
The cave paintings are 18 000 years old. They are showing big animals with huge horns and humps. But more recent paintings (if 12 00 years old paintings can be called recent) depict some smaller animals, with smaller horns. So the cave people might have actually noticed the differences between those species of bison. So they decided it would be a good idea to keep a record. And it looks like their idea was brilliant. They unknowingly helped scientists make a huge discovery that has been bothering them for years.
Image source: here