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: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:The study was performed on a male European bison (Bison bonasus bonasus L.) foetus spontaneously aborted at the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy in the Bia?owie?a Forest. Serum samples from the foetus and mother revealed the presence of antibodies against T. gondii (S/P% = 88% and 75%, respectively). Mobile extracellular tachyzoites were first observed in a Vero cell culture, 110 days following inoculation of brain homogenate. PCR amplification with TGR1E1 and TGR1E2 primers confirmed the presence of T. gondii DNA, which was classified as Type I by PCR-RFLP genotyping. The sequences of 18S ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) and 5.8S ribosomal RNA (5.8S rRNA) genes; internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) and internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2), obtained from T. gondii isolate, have been deposited in GenBank (accession number KX459518.1). This is the first in vitro isolation and molecular identification of T. gondii from an aborted European bison foetus. The origin of this protozoan isolate indicates that the species is a significant threat to the European bison conservation program implemented in the Bia?owie?a Forest.
Project description:Biodiversity is rapidly declining globally. One strategy to help to conserve species is to breed species in captivity and release them into suitable habitats. The way that reintroduced animals explore new habitats and/or disperse from the release site is rarely studied in detail and represents key information for the success of reintroduction projects. The European bison (Bison bonasus L. 1758) was the largest surviving herbivore of the post-glacial megafauna in Europe before it became extinct in the wild, surviving only in captivity since 1919. We investigated the exploration behavior of a herd of European bison reintroduced into the Rothaargebirge, a commercial forest in low range mountain intensively used and densely populated by humans, in the first six months after release. We focused on three questions: (1) how did the European bison move and utilize the habitat on a daily basis, (2) how did the animals explore the new environment, and (3) did their habitat preferences change over time. The European bison dispersed away from their previous enclosure at an average rate of 539 m/month, with their areas of daily use ranging from 70 to 173 ha, their movement ranging from 3.6 km to 5.2 km per day, and their day-to-day use of areas ranged between 389 and 900 m. We could identify three major exploration bouts, when the animals entered and explored areas previously unknown to them. During the birthing phase, the European bison reduced daily walking distances, and the adult bull segregated from the herd for 58 days. Around rut, roaming behavior of the herd increased slightly. The animals preferred spruce forest, wind thrown areas and grassland, all of which are food abundant habitat types, and they avoided beech forest. Habitat preference differed slightly between phases of the study period, probably due to phenological cycles. After six months, the complete summer home range was 42.5 km2. Our study shows that a small free-ranging herd of European bison can live in an area intensively used by humans and describes in detail the initial roaming behavior and habitat utilization of the animals.
Project description: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:We investigated how do environmental and climatic factors, but also management, affect the carbon (?13C) and nitrogen (?15N) stable isotope composition in bone collagen of the two largest contemporary herbivores: European bison (Bison bonasus) and moose (Alces alces) across Europe. We also analysed how different scenarios of population recovery- reintroduction in bison and natural recovery in moose influenced feeding habitats and diet of these two species and compared isotopic signatures of modern populations of bison and moose (living in human-altered landscapes) with those occurring in early Holocene. We found that ?13C of modern bison and moose decreased with increasing forest cover. Decreasing forest cover, increasing mean annual temperature and feeding on farm crops caused an increase in ?15N in bison, while no factor significantly affected ?15N in moose. We showed significant differences in ?13C and ?15N among modern bison populations, in contrast to moose populations. Variation in both isotopes in bison resulted from inter-population differences, while in moose it was mainly an effect of intra-population variation. Almost all modern bison populations differed in ?13C and ?15N from early Holocene bison. Such differences were not observed in moose. It indicates refugee status of European bison. Our results yielded evidence that habitat structure, management and a different history of population recovery have a strong influence on foraging behaviour of large herbivores reflected in stable isotope signatures. Influence of forest structure on carbon isotope signatures of studied herbivores supports the "canopy effect" hypothesis.
Project description:Resettlement projects of the strongly threatened European bison (Bison bonasus) require a monitoring phase to assess both population status and habitat quality. Schemes of animal body condition scores (BCS) are robust tools to meet this requirement in practice. However, so far, no BCS scheme has been designed for European bison. Here, we suggest a body condition score scheme based on the extent of soft tissue around bony structures. The scoring system was developed with scores ranging from 1 (emaciated) to 5 (obese). Condition scores can be deduced after visually assessing the European bison both from the side and behind. Robustness of the scheme was evaluated: Unbiased people from different professional backgrounds were asked to assess the BCS of photographed semiwild European bison under field conditions and results were compared. Results demonstrate the suitability of the method. Nevertheless, variability of the results among assessors illustrates the necessity for training as well as for further research to validate the scheme as a true measure of physiological condition. We discuss the prospects and limits of a broad use of this scheme within the European bison community, and recommend the BCS scheme as a management tool.
Project description:Runs of homozygosity (ROH), uninterrupted stretches of homozygous genotypes resulting from parents transmitting identical haplotypes to their offspring, have emerged as informative genome-wide estimates of autozygosity (inbreeding). We used genomic profiles based on 698?K single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from nine breeds of domestic cattle (<i>Bos taurus</i>) and the European bison (<i>Bison bonasus</i>) to investigate how ROH distributions can be compared within and among species. We focused on two length classes: 0.5-15?Mb to investigate ancient events and >15?Mb to address recent events (approximately three generations). For each length class, we chose a few chromosomes with a high number of ROH, calculated the percentage of times a SNP appeared in a ROH, and plotted the results. We selected areas with distinct patterns including regions where (1) all groups revealed an increase or decrease of ROH, (2) bison differed from cattle, (3) one cattle breed or groups of breeds differed (e.g., dairy versus meat cattle). Examination of these regions in the cattle genome showed genes potentially important for natural and human-induced selection, concerning, for example, meat and milk quality, metabolism, growth, and immune function. The comparative methodology presented here permits visual identification of regions of interest for selection, breeding programs, and conservation.
Project description:The wisent or European bison is the largest European herbivore and is completely cross-fertile with its American relative. However, mtDNA genome of wisent is similar to that of cattle, which suggests that wisent emerged as a hybrid of bison and an extinct cattle-like species. Here, we analyzed nuclear whole-genome sequences of the bovine species, and found only a minor and recent gene flow between wisent and cattle. Furthermore, we identified an appreciable heterogeneity of the nuclear gene tree topologies of the bovine species. The relative frequencies of various topologies, including the mtDNA topology, were consistent with frequencies of incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) as estimated by tree coalescence analysis. This indicates that ILS has occurred and may well account for the anomalous wisent mtDNA phylogeny as the outcome of a rare event. We propose that ILS is a possible explanation of phylogenomic anomalies among closely related species.