A drawing of a steppe bison (Bison priscus) that was made with black charcoal that dates from the Aurignacian period, located at the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave in Ardèche, France.
Credit: Carole Fritz
Clever detective work involving research on both ancient DNA and cave paintings from the last ice age has revealed a previously unknown species of hybrid bison, according to a new study.
Researchers initially nicknamed the newfound bison the "Higgs Bison," because, just like the once-elusive subatomic particle known as the Higgs Boson, the bison's very existence had never been confirmed, and it took about 15 years to piece together data that proved its existence.
But now, thanks to ancient DNA from the creatures' bones, researchers know that the mysterious bison was a hybrid animal that originated more than 120,000 years ago, when the extinct aurochs (the ancestor of modern cattle) and the ice-age steppe bison got together, the researchers said. [See Photos of the Cave Art That Helped Experts Crack the Bison Mystery]