Genomic evaluation of hybridization in historic and modern North American Bison (Bison bison). Academic Article uri icon


  • During the late nineteenth century North American bison underwent a significant population bottleneck resulting in a reduction in population size of over 99% and a species-level near-extinction event. Factors responsible for this destruction included indiscriminate killing, loss of access to suitable habitat, and diseases. At the nadir of this population crash, very few wild plains bison survived and were restricted to Yellowstone National Park, USA and a small number of wild wood bison remained in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. However, most surviving bison in the late 1800's were maintained by cattle ranchers in private herds where hybridization between bison with various breeds of domestic cattle was often encouraged. Over the last 20years, the legacy of this introgression has been identified using mitochondrial DNA and limited nuclear microsatellite analyses. However, no genome-wide assessment has been performed, and some herds were believed to be free of introgression based on current genetic testing strategies. Herein, we report detailed analyses using whole genome sequencing from nineteen modern and six historical bison, chosen to represent the major lineages of bison, to identify and quantitate signatures of nuclear introgression in their recent (within 200years) history. Both low and high coverage genomes provided evidence for recent introgression, including animals from Yellowstone, Wind Cave, and Elk Island National Parks which were previously thought to be free from hybridization with domestic cattle. We employed multiple approaches, including one developed for this work, to identify putative cattle haplotypes in each bison genome. These regions vary greatly in size and frequency by sample and herd, though we detected domestic cattle introgression in all bison genomes tested. Since our sampling strategy spanned across the diversity of modern bison populations, these finding are best explained by multiple historical hybridization events between these two species with significant genetic recombination over the last 200years. Our results demonstrate that whole genome sequencing approaches are required to accurately quantitate cattle introgression in bison.

published proceedings

  • Sci Rep

altmetric score

  • 231.932

author list (cited authors)

  • Stroupe, S., Forgacs, D., Harris, A., Derr, J. N., & Davis, B. W.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Stroupe, Sam||Forgacs, David||Harris, Andrew||Derr, James N||Davis, Brian W

publication date

  • January 2022