It appears that one of the symbols of Belarus originated about 120,000 years ago! Early cave art and ancient DNA helped scientists to explain the origin of European bison, which remained a mystery until now.
An unknown hybrid species of cattle and bison has been discovered on cave art by researchers led by the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide. The hybrid called Higgs Bison, originated more than 120,000 years ago and was the product of extinct Aurochs and the Ice Age Steppe Bison.
The cave paintings, dating back 15,000 years ago, show a bison with long horns and big forequarters, which looks like the American Bison. There was also depiction of a bison with short horns and small humps, which looks like the European Bison, or zubr, as the animal is known in Belarus.
In their study published in the journal Nature Communications, the Higgs Bison roamed the cold grasslands from Europe to Mexico. In time, the hybrid animal became the ancestor of the modern European Bison, which can be found in protected areas in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Białowieża forest) between Poland and Belarus.
The species was initially discovered in 2001 by Beth Shapiro of the UCSC during her PhD research with Alan Cooper, ACAD Director and study leader of the new study. It is only 15 years later that details of the hybrid species became clear.
“Finding that a hybridisation event led to a completely new species was a real surprise – as this isn’t really meant to happen in mammals,” says study leader Professor Alan Cooper, ACAD Director.
Source: australianetworknews, nature.com