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Early cave art and ancient DNA record the origin of European bison

par Myriam Méziou - publié le

Julien Soubrier, Graham Gower, Kefei Chen, Stephen M. Richards, Bastien Llamas, Kieren J. Mitchell, Simon Y.W. Ho, Pavel Kosintsev, Michael S.Y. Lee, Gennady Baryshnikov, Ruth Bollongino, Pere Bover, Joachim Burger, David Chivall, Evelyne Crégut-Bonnoure, Jared E. Decker, Vladimir B. Doronichev, Katerina Douka, Damien A. Fordham, Federica Fontana, Carole Fritz, Jan Glimmerveen, Liubov V. Golovanova, Colin Groves, Antonio Guerreschi, Wolfgang Haak, Tom Higham, Emilia Hofman-Kaminska, Alexander Immel, Marie-Anne Julien, Johannes Krause, Oleksandra Krotova, Frauke Langbein, Greger Larson, Adam Rohrlach, Amelie Scheu, Robert D. Schnabel, Jeremy F. Taylor, Małgorzata Tokarska, Gilles Tosello, Johannes van der Plicht, Ayla van Loenen, Jean-Denis Vigne, Oliver Wooley, Ludovic Orlando, Rafał Kowalczyk, Beth Shapiro & Alan Cooper.

The two living species of bison (European and American) are among the few terrestrial megafauna to have survived the late Pleistocene extinctions. Despite the extensive bovid fossil record in Eurasia, the evolutionary history of the European bison (or wisent, Bison bonasus) before the Holocene (o11.7 thousand years ago (kya)) remains a mystery. We use complete ancient mitochondrial genomes and genome-wide nuclear DNA surveys to reveal that the wisent is the product of hybridization between the extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus) and ancestors of modern cattle (aurochs, Bos primigenius) before 120 kya, and contains up to 10% aurochs genomic ancestry. Although undetected within the fossil record, ancestors of the wisent have alternated ecological dominance with steppe bison in association with major environmental shifts since at least 55 kya. Early cave artists recorded distinct morphological forms consistent with these replacement events, around the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, B21–18 kya).

Bison Europe, Nature

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