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Extinct Long-horned Bison & Ancient Bison (Bison latifrons and B. antiquus) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Extinct Long-horned Bison & Ancient Bison (Bison latifrons and B. antiquus)

How Do We Know This?

Since direct observation of a fossil animal's behavior isn't possible, paleontologists use comparison and contrast with living animals for guidance. Tracks can sometimes reveal further clues.

Social Behavior

  • Bison latifrons: Very large horns signaled fitness to potential mates as well as serving to ward off predators (Geist 1996)
  • B. latifrons may have been more solitary than B. antiquus (McDonald 1981)
    • Forest habitats/woodland habitats with limited resources wouldn't support large populations of large herbivores
    • Vocalizations would have been an important means for mate-finding in somewhat closed habitats
    • May have had life-style similar to modern moose
  • B. antiquus had stronger herding and more complex social behavior than B. latifrons (McDonald 1981)
  • B. latifrons may have engaged in dominance and fighting behavior characterized by hooking, not butting (McDonald 1981)
    • Larger horns have curvature that places tips above frontal bones of skull
    • Foreheads are flattened rather than domed (domed-head modern bison are fortified against head-butting)
  • Bison antiquus fighting behavior probably characterized by more head to head impacts

Interspecies Interactions

  • Bison latifrons probably used sheer size a deterrent for predators
    • No evidence for hunting by humans
  • Bison antiquus probably used flight as a predator defense
  • Bison antiquus shared the grassland environments with horses, camels, giant ground sloths, and mammoths

Page Citations

Geist (1999)
McDonald (1981)

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