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

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

How Do We Know This?

Abnormalities in fossils bones may show
evidence of arthritis, cancer, nutritional stress, fractures and more.

Diseases & Pathology

Valley Fever fungal infection (Coccidioides) recognized in Bison antiquus from Nebraska.

  • Fungal organisms visible in stained thin sections of fossil bone from lower jaw
  • Lesions in bone similar to those in modern cattle infected with coccidioidomycosis
  • This pathogen isn't found in Nebraska today but is in arid parts of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and northern Mexico.
  • Researchers hypothesize Valley Fever fungus either once occupied a wider geographic area or, that bison migrated between Nebraska and areas to the south where the pathogen did live.

Many abnormalities observed in fossils of B. antiquus (McDonald 1981)

  • Most abnormalities are in the skull and horns
  • Teeth also affected; exhibit malformation, overcrowding, poor orientation
  • Most abnormalities occur in fossils dated between 11,000 and 9,000 years ago
  • This pattern likely due to inbreeding in small isolated populations experiencing intense human hunting pressure

A 20,000 year-old fossil deposit at Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming had evidence of tuberculosis and other bone diseases (Rothschild & Martin 2003).

  • Many Bison antiquus bones had osteoarthritis caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (identified by DNA).
  • One bison had diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) - abnormal bone growth in the skeleton from unknown causes.

Page Citations

McDonald (1981)
Morrow (2006)
Fisher (2001)
Jefferson and Goldin (1989)

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