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The Hunt for the Higgs Bison Is Over

The Hunt for the Higgs Bison Is Over

The odd hybrid of aurochs and steppe bison has now been confirmed to exist, during the last Ice Age.

Some hybrid creatures are confined to myth and legend, while others end up turning out to be real after all. The case of the “Higgs Bison” is one that can now be placed in the latter slot.

What is a “Higgs Bison”?

Once upon a time, archaeologists were finding bone fragments of Ice Age cattle-like mammals that were giving weird results; basically, it appeared as if those in the field were finding bones belonging to a new breed or even species of cattle. The researchers, unsure of what they were truly looking at, called the animal that seemed to belong to these bones the “Higgs Bison” – a nod to the particle called the “Higgs Boson,” that physicists discovered back in July 2012 and similarly there is no consensus as to exactly what has actually been “discovered.”

But, no longer for the Higgs Bison….

The Higgs Bison comes to life.

Higgs Bison, archaeology, cave paintings

Replicated cave drawings of the steppe bison (left) and its European counterpart called the “wisent” (right). The steppe bison has longer horns, while the wisent has a longer body. Image Credit: Ref.1

A recently-published study has now resolved the mystery of the bison bones, with the help of some Ice Age cave artists. It turns out that there once existed, during the Ice Age, a hybrid between the now-extinct aurochs (the beast from which we domesticated the cow) and the equally-extinct steppe bison (basically, the Asian version of the American bison).

This is according to various cave drawings of this new beast, which depict the Higgs Bison with the anatomical accuracy typical to cave drawings of 15+ thousand years ago.  Comparing the drawings to what scientists already knew from the bones (DNA, physical structure, etc.), there appeared to be a respectible match.

The buffalo weather forecast…

One interesting piece of data that came from this study was a link between the prevalence of Higgs Bisonand steppe bison and how these populations fluctuated in concert with climatic swings in Europe and Asia. These two animals appeared to take turns being dominant, with the Higgs Bison preferring the colder climes and the steppe bison preferring the warmer periods of the last Ice Age. The buffalo weather forecast…

References:
Soubrier, J., Gower, G., Chen, K., & et al (2016). Early cave art and ancient DNA record the origin of European bison Nature Communications, 7 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13158
Sci News – Higgs Bison: Mysterious Hybrid of Bison and Cattle Hidden in Ice Age Cave Art
Image Credit: D. Veti

Jeffrey Daniels
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