Bison antiquus

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Bison antiquus
Temporal range: 0.24–0.01 Ma
Bison antiquus La Brea.jpg
Bison antiquus at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Genus: Bison
B. antiquus
Binomial name
Bison antiquus
Leidy, 1852
  • Bison californicus
    Rhoads, 1897

Bison antiquus, the antique bison or ancient bison, is an extinct species of bison that lived in Late Pleistocene North America until around 10,000 years ago. It was one of the most common large herbivores on the North American continent during the late Pleistocene, and is a direct ancestor of the living American bison along with Bison occidentalis.[1][2]


The first described remains of Bison antiquus were collected at Big Bone Lick, Kentucky in Pleistocene deposits in the 1850s and only consisted of a fragmentary posterior skull and a nearly complete horn core.[3] The fossil (ANSP 12990) was briefly described by Joseph Leidy in 1852.[4] Although the original fossils were fragmentary, a complete skull of an old male was discovered in southern California and were described as a new species, B. californicus, by Samuel Rhoads in 1897,[5] but the species is considered synonymous with B. antiquus.[6] Since the 19th century, several well preserved specimens of B. antiquus have been discovered in many parts of the United States,[7] Canada,[8] and southern Mexico.[9]


During the later Pleistocene epoch, between 240,000 and 220,000 years ago,[10][11][12] steppe wisent (B. priscus) migrated from Siberia into Alaska across the Bering Land Bridge. Bison priscus lived throughout North America from Alaska to southern Mexico[13] throughout the remainder of the Pleistocene. In western North America, B. priscus evolved into long-horned bison, B. latifrons, which then evolved into B. antiquus. The larger B. latifrons appears to have disappeared by about 22,000 years ago likely because of evolutionary process to adapt into the new continent including increasing in population size.[14] After the extinction of B. latifrons, B. antiquus became increasingly abundant in parts of midcontinent North America from 18,000 until about 10,000 years ago,[11] after which the species appears to have given rise to the living species, B. bison.[15] B. antiquus is the most commonly recovered large mammalian herbivore from the La Brea tar pits.[1]

B. antiquus was taller, had larger bones and horns, and was 15-25% larger overall than modern bison. It reached up to 2.27 m (7.4 ft) tall, 4.6 m (15 ft) long, and a weight of 1,588 kg (3,501 lb).[16] From tip to tip, the horns of B. antiquus measured about 3 ft (nearly 1 m).

B. antiquus skull

One of the best educational sites to view in situ semifossilized skeletons of over 500 individuals of B. antiquus is the Hudson-Meng archeological site operated by the U.S. Forest Service, 18 mi (29 km) northwest of Crawford, Nebraska. A number of paleo-Indian spear and projectile points have been recovered in conjunction with the animal skeletons at the site, which is dated around 9,700 to 10,000 years ago. The reason for the "die-off" of so many animals in one compact location is still in conjecture; some professionals argue it was the result of a very successful paleo-Indian hunt, while others feel the herd died as a result of some dramatic natural event, to be later scavenged by humans. Individuals of B. antiquus of both sexes and a typical range of ages have been found at the site.[17][18][19]

According to internationally renowned archaeologist George Carr Frison, B. occidentalis and B. antiquus both survived the Late Pleistocene period, between about 12,000 and 11,000 years ago, dominated by glaciation (the Wisconsin glaciation in North America), when many other megafauna became extinct.[20] After the extinction of most of the North American megafauna, Native Americans of the Plains and Rocky Mountains depended largely on bison as their major food source. Frison noted, "[the] oldest, well-documented bison kills by pedestrian human hunters in North America date to about 11,000 years ago."[21] B. antiquus fossils were found in Washington State in recent years, with apparent fracture patterns on bones consistent with stone tools as opposed to carnivorous activity.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Animals of the La Brea Tar Pits Timeline". La Brea Tar Pits & Museum. Archived from the original on 11 January 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  2. ^ C. G Van Zyll de Jong , 1986, A systematic study of recent bison, with particular consideration of the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae Rhoads 1898), p.53, National Museum of Natural Sciences
  3. ^ Gillette, D. D., & Colbert, E. H. (1976). Catalogue of Type Specimens of Fossil Vertebrates Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia Part II: Terrestrial Mammals. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 25-38.
  4. ^ Leidy, Joseph (1852a), "Bison antiquus", Proceedings Academy of Natural Science, 6: 117
  5. ^ Rhoads, S. N. (1897). Notes on living and extinct species of North American Bovidae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 483-502.
  6. ^ Lucas, F. A. (1899). The fossil bison of North America. Proceedings of the United States National Museum.
  7. ^ Wilson, Michael C.; Kenady, Stephen M.; Schalk, Randall F. (2009). "Late Pleistocene Bison antiquus from Orcas Island, Washington, and the biogeographic importance of an early postglacial land mammal dispersal corridor from the mainland to Vancouver Island". Quaternary Research. 71 (1): 49–61. doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2008.09.001. ISSN 0033-5894. S2CID 129543840.
  8. ^ Wilson, M. C., Hills, L. V., & Shapiro, B. (2008). Late Pleistocene northward-dispersing Bison antiquus from the Bighill Creek Formation, Gallelli gravel pit, Alberta, Canada, and the fate of Bison occidentalis. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 45(7), 827-859.
  9. ^ Jiménez-Hidalgo, E., Cabrera-Pérez, L., MacFadden, B. J., & Guerrero-Arenas, R. (2013). First record of Bison antiquus from the Late Pleistocene of southern Mexico. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 42, 83-90.
  10. ^ Bell, C.J.; et al. (2004). "The Blancan, Irvingtonian, and Rancholabrean mammal ages". In Woodburne, M.O. (ed.). Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic Mammals of North America: Biostratigraphy and Geochronology. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. pp. 232–314. ISBN 0-231-13040-6.
  11. ^ a b Scott, E.; Cox, S.M. (2008). "Late Pleistocene distribution of Bison (Mammalia; Artiodactyla) in the Mojave Desert of Southern California and Nevada". In Wang, X.; Barnes, L.G. (eds.). Geology and Vertebrate Paleontology of Western and Southern North America. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. pp. 359–382.
  12. ^ Sanders, A.E.; R.E. Weems & L.B. Albright III (2009). "Formalization of the mid-Pleistocene "Ten Mile Hill beds" in South Carolina with evidence for placement of the Irvingtonian–Rancholabrean boundary". In Albright III, L.B. (ed.). Papers on Geology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and Biostratigraphy in Honor of Michael O. Woodburne. Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona. pp. 369–375.
  13. ^ Jimenez-Hidalgo, Eduardo Cabrera-Pérez MacFadden Guerrero-Arenas, Rosalía 2012/01/01 First record of Bison antiquus from the Late Pleistocene of southern Mexico, Journal of South American Earth Sciences
  14. ^ Valerius Geist, 1996, Buffalo Nation, Voyageur Press
  15. ^ Wilson, M.C. & L.V. Hills, B. Shapiro (2008). "Late Pleistocene northward-dispersing Bison antiquus from the Bighill Creek Formation, Gallelli Gravel Pit, Alberta, Canada, and the fate of Bison occidentalis". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 45 (7): 827–859. Bibcode:2008CaJES..45..827W. doi:10.1139/E08-027.
  16. ^ "Warkworth Western Weekend Rodeo | Competitors". Archived from the original on 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
  17. ^ Davis & Wilson 1978, p. 128.
  18. ^ Davis, L.B. and Wilson, M. (1978) "Bison procurement and utilization: A symposium," Plains Anthropologist. Volume 23, Issue 82, Part 2. p 128.
  19. ^ Agenbroad, L.D. (1978) The Hudson-Meng site: an Alberta bison kill in the Nebraska high plains. University Press of America.
  20. ^ Ehlers & Gibbard 2004.
  21. ^ Frison 2000.
  22. ^ "The Bison at Ayer Pond on Orcas Island is archaeological". 24 April 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Davis, L. B.; Wilson, M. (1978), "Bison procurement and utilization: A symposium", Plains Anthropologist Part 2, 23 (82)
  • Ehlers, J.; Gibbard, P.L. (2004), Quaternary Glaciations: Extent and Chronology 2: Part II North America, Amsterdam: Elsevier, ISBN 0-444-51462-7
  • Frison, George C. (August 2000), Prehistoric Human and Bison Relationships on the Plains of North America, Edmonton, Alberta: International Bison Conference
  • Leidy, Joseph (1852b), Memoir on the extinct species of American ox, retrieved 20 September 2013

External links[edit]