Scientists Identify the Elusive Higgs Bison

Geneticists and cave paintings identify a lost species they puckishly name the "Higgs bison."

No, that’s not a typo. It’s “bison” on purpose. (Paleontologists have a sense of humor, too.) And the elusive creature is the answer to a puzzle that’s had geneticists puzzled.


What’s had them wondering is something they’ve found during genetic studies of steppe bison bones and teeth that just doesn’t fit. There’s been a section of late ice age bison genomes that doesn’t really belong to anything else. They’ve suspected it may belong to a heretofore unidentified species, but, absent other evidence, they weren’t sure. They temporarily named the mystery animals “CladeX.”

Lascaux (VEJA)

They may have had the evidence they sought all along, in the ancient artwork found on the walls of France’s Lascaux and Pergouset caves back in 1940. Scientists analyzing the cave paintings have noted an odd shift in the features of bison depicted in the Pergouset cave. At first — from 20,000-18,000 years ago — bison appear they way steppe bison are expected to: with long horns and prominent forequarters. But by about 13,000 years back, they look noticeably different: The painted bison have more symmetrical proportions, and their horns are thinner and shorter.

European bison in Lascaus vs. ??? in Pergouset (NATURE)

Could this be the mystery species?

Intrigued, geneticists examined the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in bison bones and teeth from 20,000 to 12,000 years ago. These samples were gathered from 20 sites across Europe and into the Urals and the Caucasus.

It turns out that a separate species — the elusive Higgs bison — did roam the steppes from 17,000 to 13,000 years ago. This time frame matches up startlingly well with the Pergouset bison paintings.

Scientists believe the Higgs bison were offspring of steppe bison and aurochs, an extinct breed of cattle. The original steppe bison eventually led to the American bison, and scientists believe the Higgs bison was the forerunner of modern European bison.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less