Hunting the Extinct Steppe Bison (Bison priscus) Mitochondrial Genome in the Trois-Freres Paleolithic Painted Cave.
ABSTRACT: Despite the abundance of fossil remains for the extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus), an animal that was painted and engraved in numerous European Paleolithic caves, a complete mitochondrial genome sequence has never been obtained for this species. In the present study we collected bone samples from a sector of the Trois-Frères Paleolithic cave (Ariège, France) that formerly functioned as a pitfall and was sealed before the end of the Pleistocene. Screening the DNA content of the samples collected from the ground surface revealed their contamination by Bos DNA. However, a 19,000-year-old rib collected on a rock apart the pathway delineated for modern visitors was devoid of such contaminants and reproducibly yielded Bison priscus DNA. High-throughput shotgun sequencing combined with conventional PCR analysis of the rib DNA extract enabled to reconstruct a complete mitochondrial genome sequence of 16,318 bp for the extinct steppe bison with a 10.4-fold coverage. Phylogenetic analyses robustly established the position of the Bison priscus mitochondrial genome as basal to the clade delineated by the genomes of the modern American Bison bison. The extinct steppe bison sequence, which exhibits 93 specific polymorphisms as compared to the published Bison bison mitochondrial genomes, provides an additional resource for the study of Bovinae specimens. Moreover this study of ancient DNA delineates a new research pathway for the analysis of the Magdalenian Trois-Frères cave.
Project description:The European bison (Bison bonasus), now found in Europe and the Caucasus, has been proposed to originate either from the extinct steppe/extant American bison lineage or from the extinct Bison schoetensacki lineage. Bison schoetensacki remains are documented in Eurasian Middle Pleistocene sites, but their presence in Upper Pleistocene sites has been questioned. Despite extensive genetic studies carried out on the steppe and European bison, no remains from the fossil record morphologically identified as Bison schoetensacki has been analyzed up to now.In this paper, we analyzed a 36,000-year-old Bison schoetensaki bone sample from the Siréjol cave (France) and a cave hyena coprolite (fossilized feces) found in a nearby cave and containing large amounts of Bovinae DNA. We show that the Bovinae mitochondrial DNA sequences from both samples, including a complete mitochondrial genome sequence, belong to a clade recently reported in the literature. This clade only includes ancient bison specimens without taxonomic identification and displays a sister relationship with the extant European bison. The genetic proximity of Bison schoetensacki with specimens from this clade is corroborated by the analysis of nuclear DNA single nucleotide polymorphisms.This work provides genetic evidence supporting the continuing presence of Bison schoetensacki up to the Upper Pleistocene. Bison schoetensacki turns out to be a sister species of Bison bonasus, excluding the steppe bison Bison priscus as a direct ancestor of the European bison.
Project description: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 (<11.7 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, ∼21-18 kya).
Project description:Mobile devices for on-field DNA analysis have been used for medical diagnostics at the point-of-care, forensic investigations and environmental surveys, but still have to be validated for ancient DNA studies. We report here on a mobile laboratory that we setup using commercially available devices, including a compact real-time PCR machine, and describe procedures to perform DNA extraction and analysis from a variety of archeological samples within 4 hours. The process is carried out on 50 mg samples that are identified at the species level using custom TaqMan real-time PCR assays for mitochondrial DNA fragments. We evaluated the potential of this approach in museums lacking facilities for DNA studies by analyzing samples from the Enlène (MIS 2 layer) and the Portel-Ouest cave (MIS 3 deposits), and also performed experiments during an excavation campaign at the Roc-en-Pail (MIS 5) open-air site. Enlène Bovinae bone samples only yielded DNA for the extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus), whereas Portel-Ouest cave coprolites contained cave hyena (Crocuta crocuta spelaea) DNA together, for some of them, with DNA for the European bison sister species/subspecies (Bison schoetensacki/Bb1-X), thus highlighting the cave hyena diet. Roc-en-Pail Bovinae bone and tooth samples also contained DNA for the Bison schoetensacki/Bb1-X clade, and Cervidae bone samples only yielded reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) DNA. Subsequent DNA sequencing analyses confirmed that correct species identification had been achieved using our TaqMan assays, hence validating these assays for future studies. We conclude that our approach enables the rapid genetic characterization of tens of millennia-old archeological samples and is expected to be useful for the on-site screening of museums and freshly excavated samples for DNA content. Because our mobile laboratory is made up of commercially available instruments, this approach is easily accessible to other investigators.
Project description:The arrival of bison in North America marks one of the most successful large-mammal dispersals from Asia within the last million years, yet the timing and nature of this event remain poorly determined. Here, we used a combined paleontological and paleogenomic approach to provide a robust timeline for the entry and subsequent evolution of bison within North America. We characterized two fossil-rich localities in Canada's Yukon and identified the oldest well-constrained bison fossil in North America, a 130,000-y-old steppe bison, Bison cf. priscus We extracted and sequenced mitochondrial genomes from both this bison and from the remains of a recently discovered, ?120,000-y-old giant long-horned bison, Bison latifrons, from Snowmass, Colorado. We analyzed these and 44 other bison mitogenomes with ages that span the Late Pleistocene, and identified two waves of bison dispersal into North America from Asia, the earliest of which occurred ?195-135 thousand y ago and preceded the morphological diversification of North American bison, and the second of which occurred during the Late Pleistocene, ?45-21 thousand y ago. This chronological arc establishes that bison first entered North America during the sea level lowstand accompanying marine isotope stage 6, rejecting earlier records of bison in North America. After their invasion, bison rapidly colonized North America during the last interglaciation, spreading from Alaska through continental North America; they have been continuously resident since then.
Project description:Wild American plains bison (Bison bison) populations virtually disappeared in the late 1800s, with some remnant animals retained in what would become Yellowstone National Park and on private ranches. Some of these private bison were intentionally crossbred with cattle for commercial purposes. This forced hybridization resulted in both mitochondrial and nuclear introgression of cattle genes into some of the extant bison genome. As the private populations grew, excess animals, along with their history of cattle genetics, provided founders for newly established public bison populations. Of the US public bison herds, only those in Yellowstone and Wind Cave National Parks (YNP and WCNP) appear to be free of detectable levels of cattle introgression. However, a small free-ranging population (~350 animals) exists on public land, along with domestic cattle, in the Henry Mountains (HM) of southern Utah. This isolated bison herd originated from a founder group translocated from YNP in the 1940s. Using genetic samples from 129 individuals, we examined the genetic status of the HM population and found no evidence of mitochondrial or nuclear introgression of cattle genes. This new information confirms it is highly unlikely for free-living bison to crossbreed with cattle, and this disease-free HM bison herd is valuable for the long-term conservation of the species. This bison herd is a subpopulation of the YNP/WCNP/HM metapopulation, within which it can contribute significantly to national efforts to restore the American plains bison to more of its native range.
Project description:Neanderthals were once widespread across Europe and western Asia. They also penetrated into the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, but the geographical origin of these populations and the timing of their dispersal have remained elusive. Here we describe an archaeological assemblage from Chagyrskaya Cave, situated in the Altai foothills, where around 90,000 Middle Paleolithic artifacts and 74 Neanderthal remains have been recovered from deposits dating to between 59 and 49 thousand years ago (age range at 95.4% probability). Environmental reconstructions suggest that the Chagyrskaya hominins were adapted to the dry steppe and hunted bison. Their distinctive toolkit closely resembles Micoquian assemblages from central and eastern Europe, including the northern Caucasus, more than 3,000 kilometers to the west of Chagyrskaya Cave. At other Altai sites, evidence of earlier Neanderthal populations lacking associated Micoquian-like artifacts implies two or more Neanderthal incursions into this region. We identify eastern Europe as the most probable ancestral source region for the Chagyrskaya toolmakers, supported by DNA results linking the Neanderthal remains with populations in northern Croatia and the northern Caucasus, and providing a rare example of a long-distance, intercontinental population movement associated with a distinctive Paleolithic toolkit.
Project description:According to the refugee species concept, increasing replacement of open steppe by forest cover after the last glacial period and human pressure had together forced European bison (Bison bonasus)--the largest extant terrestrial mammal of Europe--into forests as a refuge habitat. The consequent decreased fitness and population density led to the gradual extinction of the species. Understanding the pre-refugee ecology of the species may help its conservation management and ensure its long time survival. In view of this, we investigated the abundance of stable isotopes (?13C and ?15N) in radiocarbon dated skeletal remains of European bison and other large herbivores--aurochs (Bos primigenius), moose (Alces alces), and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)--from the Early Holocene of northern Europe to reconstruct their dietary habits and pattern of habitat use in conditions of low human influence. Carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions in collagen of the ungulate species in northern central Europe during the Early Holocene showed significant differences in the habitat use and the diet of these herbivores. The values of the ?13C and ?15N isotopes reflected the use of open habitats by bison, with their diet intermediate between that of aurochs (grazer) and of moose (browser). Our results show that, despite the partial overlap in carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of some species, Early Holocene large ungulates avoided competition by selection of different habitats or different food sources within similar environments. Although Early Holocene bison and Late Pleistocene steppe bison utilized open habitats, their diets were significantly different, as reflected by their ?15N values. Additional isotopic analyses show that modern populations of European bison utilize much more forested habitats than Early Holocene bison, which supports the refugee status of the species.
Project description:Large grazers are visible and valuable indicators of the effects of projected changes in temperature and drought on grasslands. The grasslands of the Great Plains have supported the greatest number of bison (Bison bison; Linnaeus, 1758) since prehistoric times. We tested the hypothesis that body mass (BM, kg) and asymptotic body mass (ABM, kg) of Bison decline with rising temperature and increasing drought over both temporal and spatial scales along the Great Plains. Temporally, we modeled the relationship of annual measures of BM and height (H, m) of 5,781 Bison at Wind Cave National Park (WICA) from 1966 to 2015. We used Gompertz equations of BM against age to estimate ABM in decadal cohorts; both females and males decreased from the 1960s to the 2010s. Male ABM was variable but consistently larger (699 vs. 441 kg) than female ABM. We used local mean decadal temperature (MDT) and local mean decadal Palmer Drought Severity Index (dPDSI) to model the effects of climate on ABM. Drought decreased ABM temporally (-16 kg/local dPDSI) at WICA. Spatially, we used photogrammetry to measure body height (HE ) of 773 Bison to estimate BME in 19 herds from Saskatchewan to Texas, including WICA. Drought also decreased ABM spatially (-16 kg/local dPDSI) along the Great Plains. Temperature decreased ABM both temporally at WICA (-115 kg/°C local MDT) and spatially (-1 kg/°C local MDT) along the Great Plains. Our data indicate that temperature and drought drive Bison ABM presumably by affecting seasonal mass gain. Bison body size is likely to decline over the next five decades throughout the Great Plains due to projected increases in temperatures and both the frequency and intensity of drought.
Project description:Tracing the evolution of ancient diseases depends on the availability and accessibility of suitable biomarkers in archaeological specimens. DNA is potentially information-rich but it depends on a favourable environment for preservation. In the case of the major mycobacterial pathogens, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae, robust lipid biomarkers are established as alternatives or complements to DNA analyses. A DNA report, a decade ago, suggested that a 17,000-year-old skeleton of extinct Bison antiquus, from Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming, was the oldest known case of tuberculosis. In the current study, key mycobacterial lipid virulence factor biomarkers were detected in the same two samples from this bison. Fluorescence high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) indicated the presence of mycolic acids of the mycobacterial type, but they were degraded and could not be precisely correlated with tuberculosis. However, pristine profiles of C(29), C(30) and C(32) mycocerosates and C(27) mycolipenates, typical of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, were recorded by negative ion chemical ionization gas chromatography mass spectrometry of pentafluorobenzyl ester derivatives. These findings were supported by the detection of C(34) and C(36) phthiocerols, which are usually esterified to the mycocerosates. The existence of Pleistocene tuberculosis in the Americas is confirmed and there are many even older animal bones with well-characterised tuberculous lesions similar to those on the analysed sample. In the absence of any evidence of tuberculosis in human skeletons older than 9,000 years BP, the hypothesis that this disease evolved as a zoonosis, before transfer to humans, is given detailed consideration and discussion.
Project description:Yellowstone National Park is home to one of the only plains bison populations that have continuously existed on their present landscape since prehistoric times without evidence of domestic cattle introgression. Previous studies characterized the relatively high levels of nuclear genetic diversity in these bison, but little is known about their mitochondrial haplotype diversity. This study assessed mitochondrial genomes from 25 randomly selected Yellowstone bison and found 10 different mitochondrial haplotypes with a haplotype diversity of 0.78 (± 0.06). Spatial analysis of these mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes did not detect geographic population subdivision (FST = -0.06, p = 0.76). However, we identified two independent and historically important lineages in Yellowstone bison by combining data from 65 bison (defined by 120 polymorphic sites) from across North America representing a total of 30 different mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. Mitochondrial DNA haplotypes from one of the Yellowstone lineages represent descendants of the 22 indigenous bison remaining in central Yellowstone in 1902. The other mitochondrial DNA lineage represents descendants of the 18 females introduced from northern Montana in 1902 to supplement the indigenous bison population and develop a new breeding herd in the northern region of the park. Comparing modern and historical mitochondrial DNA diversity in Yellowstone bison helps uncover a historical context of park restoration efforts during the early 1900s, provides evidence against a hypothesized mitochondrial disease in bison, and reveals the signature of recent hybridization between American plains bison (Bison bison bison) and Canadian wood bison (B. b. athabascae). Our study demonstrates how mitochondrial DNA can be applied to delineate the history of wildlife species and inform future conservation actions.