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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.
Jefferson and Goldin (1989)
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Email the librarians at firstname.lastname@example.org