Bison latifrons

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Bison latifrons
Temporal range: Pleistocene
Bison latifrons fossil buffalo (Pleistocene; North America) 1 (15257877377).jpg
Bison latifrons skeleton
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Genus: Bison
B. latifrons
Binomial name
Bison latifrons
Harlan, 1825[1]

Bison latifrons, also known as the giant bison or long-horned bison, is an extinct species of bison that lived in North America during the Pleistocene epoch ranging from Alaska to Mexico. It was the largest and heaviest bovid ever to live in North America.[2] It thrived in North America for about 200,000 years, but became extinct some 20,000–30,000 years ago, at the beginning of the last glacial maximum.



Because only skulls and horns of this species have been found well preserved, the size of B. latifrons is currently not clearly known. Based on leg bones, the mass of B. latifrons has been estimated to be 25-50 percent larger than that of modern B. bison, making it undoubtedly one of the largest ruminants ever.[3][4]

The known dimensions of the species are on average larger than any extinct and extant bovids, including both the American bison and the European bison, making it the largest known bovid. Overall, it was probably around 4.75 m (15.6 ft) in length and stood about 2.3 m (7.5 ft) or up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft)[5] tall at the withers.[6] With an estimated weight of 1,250 kg (2,760 lb)[7][8] to 2,000 kg (4,400 lb),[9] B. latifrons was one of the largest ruminants ever, rivaled in mass only by the modern giraffe and the prehistoric long-horned buffalo Pelorovis. Fossil measurements of B. priscus gigas indicate the species was potentially analogous to B. latifrons both in morphology and habitat selection, attaining similar body sizes and horns that were up to 210 centimeters (83 in) apart.[10]

The horns of B. latifrons measured as great as 213 centimeters (84 in) from tip to tip, compared with 66 cm (26 in) to 90 cm (35 in) in modern Bison bison.[11][12]


B. latifrons is thought to have evolved in midcontinent North America from B. priscus, another prehistoric species of bison that migrated across the Bering Land Bridge between 240,000 and 220,000 years ago.[13][14][15] B. latifrons was one of many species of North American megafauna that became extinct during the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene epoch (an event referred to as the Holocene extinction). It is thought to have disappeared some 21,000–30,000 years ago, during the late Wisconsin glaciation.[11] But unlike many other megafauna that died out and left no living descendants (at least in the Americas), B. latifrons evolved into the smaller Bison antiquus which made it better adapted to flourish on the open plains.[16] B. antiquus in turn evolved into the yet smaller Bison bison — the modern American bison — some 10,000 years ago[17] by hybridization with Bison occidentalis which was smaller but more numerous than Bison antiquus. Decreasing in size through hybridization caused bison to continue increasing in population in North America until the Europeans arrived.[16]

Habitat and behavior[edit]

A herbivore, B. latifrons is believed to have lived in small family groups, grazing in the Great Plains and browsing in the woodlands of North America. Paleontologists believe it preferred the warmer climes of what is now the United States, and fossils of the species have been found as far south and west as modern-day San Diego, California.[18] The large, thick horns of the males are believed to have been employed as a visual deterrent to large carnivorous megafauna such as the saber-toothed cat[19] and giant short-faced bear,[20] and also to establish dominance in battle with other males for the right to mate. In 2014, the National Institute of Anthropology and History found remains of B. latifrons in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, southern Mexico.[21]


  1. ^ Harlan, R (1825). "Bos latifrons, (nobis.): Broad headed Fossil Ox". Fauna americana: being a description of the mammiferous animals inhabiting North America. Philadelphia: Anthony Finley. p. 273.
  2. ^ Froese, Duane; Stiller, Mathias; Heintzman, Peter D.; Reyes, Alberto V.; Zazula, Grant D.; Soares, André E. R.; Meyer, Matthias; Hall, Elizabeth; Jensen, Britta J. L.; Arnold, Lee J.; MacPhee, Ross D. E.; Shapiro, Beth (28 March 2017). "Fossil and genomic evidence constrains the timing of bison arrival in North America". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114 (13): 3457–3462. Bibcode:2017PNAS..114.3457F. doi:10.1073/pnas.1620754114. PMC 5380047. PMID 28289222.
  3. ^ Hoganson, JW (2002). "Occurrence of the Giant Ice Age Bison, Bison latifrons, in North Dakota" (PDF). NDGS Newsletter. 29 (2): 1–3. ISSN 0889-3594. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-01-25. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
  4. ^ "Bison Latifrons - Characteristics, Behavior and Habitat of Bison Latifrons, the Giant Bison". 2010-12-18. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
  5. ^ Fabian Cerón Hardy, 2015, Stable Isotope Analysis of Bison latifrons and Paleoecological Inferences, "1 - Introduction", UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 2478.
  6. ^ Extinct Long-horned Bison & Ancient Bison (Bison latifrons and B. antiquus) Fact Sheet: Summary
  7. ^ East, Shirley G. (2011-12-29). The Dream Hunters Epoch: The Paleo Indians Series. ISBN 9781465396945.
  8. ^ Fariña, Richard A.; Vizcaíno, Sergio F.; Iuliis, Gerry De (2013-05-22). Megafauna: Giant Beasts of Pleistocene South America. ISBN 978-0253007193.
  9. ^ Bison Latifrons – Characteristics, Behavior and Habitat of Bison Latifrons, the Giant Bison Archived 2013-11-10 at the Wayback (2010-12-18)
  10. ^ C. C. Flerow, 1977, Gigantic Bisons of Asia, Journal of the Palaeontological Society of India, Vol. 20, pp.77-80
  11. ^ a b Kurten, B; Anderson, E (1980). "Order Artiodactyla". Pleistocene mammals of North America (1st ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 295–339. ISBN 0-231-03733-3.
  12. ^ William Henry Burt, 1976, A Field Guide to the Mammals: North America North of Mexico, p.224, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  13. ^ Bell C.J. (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 University Press. pp. 232–314. ISBN 0-231-13040-6.
  14. ^ Scott E, Cox SM (2008). "Late Pleistocene distribution of Bison (Mammalia; Artiodactyla) in the Mojave Desert of Southern California and Nevada". In Wang X, Barnes LG (eds.). Geology and Vertebrate Paleontology of Western and Southern North America. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. pp. 359–82.
  15. ^ Sanders AE; Weems RE; Albright III LB (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 LB (ed.). Papers on Geology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and Biostratigraphy in Honor of Michael O. Woodburne. Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona. pp. 369–75.
  16. ^ a b Valerius Geist, 1996, Buffalo Nation, Voyageur Press
  17. ^ 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): 827–59. Bibcode:2008CaJES..45..827W. doi:10.1139/E08-027.
  18. ^ "Ice-Age Bison Fossil Found in San Diego". NBC 7 San Diego. 3 April 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  19. ^ Carbone, Chris; Maddox, Tom; Funston, Paul J; Mills, Michael G.L; Grether, Gregory F; Van Valkenburgh, Blaire (23 February 2009). "Parallels between playbacks and Pleistocene tar seeps suggest sociality in an extinct sabretooth cat, Smilodon". Biology Letters. 5 (1): 81–85. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0526. PMC 2657756. PMID 18957359.
  20. ^ Cassiliano, Michael L. (15 March 1999). "Biostratigraphy of Blancan and Irvingtonian mammals in the Fish Creek-Vallecito section, southern California, and a review of the Blancan–Irvingtonian boundary". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 19 (1): 169–186. doi:10.1080/02724634.1999.10011131.
  21. ^ "Descubren en Guerrero fósiles de bisonte del Pleistoceno Tardío". (in European Spanish). Retrieved 29 July 2017.

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