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Archive for December, 2011

Painting by George Stubbs (circa 1800).

The dog appears to be a lurcher or a specially bred “deer greyhound”– greyhound crossed with something big and heavy.

I think the doe is a fallow deer.

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Aelurodon ferox

Aelurodon ferox was a species of wild dog that lived in North America between 10 and 16 million years ago.

It was about the size of a wolf– weighing between 88 and 100 pounds.

It was not a wolf at all.

It was sort of a wolf before there were wolves.

You see, North America, there was a subfamily of the dog family that was solely endemic to North America.

They were called the Borophaginae (technically, “the bone eaters” but are more popularly known as the bone crushers).

Some of these dogs had quite powerful jaws– much more so than those of  a modern Northern big-game hunting wolf– and rather large size.

These dogs are often popularly referred to as “hyena dogs,” which makes things even more wonderfully confusing. African wild dogs were sometimes given exactly the same name.

The largest Borophagine dogs were in the genus Epicyon, and these dogs were very much like large hyenas. They had very powerful jaws and robust teeth that allowed them break large bones in much the same way modern hyenas do. (Wikipedia says that there was a species of Aelurodon that was as large as a tiger. I can’t find the reference. Wikipedia is probably wrong.)

This image of Aelurodon ferox comes from Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History (2010) by Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford.

You’ll note that the image of Aelurodon ferox shows a dewclaw on the hind legs. All Borophagine dogs had dewclaws on their hind legs. No modern wild dogs have this feature, except domestic dogs and wild dogs that inherited this trait through crossbreeding with domestic dogs with this trait.  (These dewclaws on the hind legs have been a great diagnostic feature for determining if Italian wolves have dog ancestry.)

Dogs derive from ancestors that had five digits on each toe.  Bears and raccoons have five digits on each foot, as did the ancestors of dogs, bears, and raccoons.

However, dogs have evolved to be long distance runners, and as they have developed into runners, they have evolved specialized running feet.  These feet are digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes.  Having one less toe on the ground allows for more efficient movement, so the fifth toe on the inside has moved away from the bottom of the foot and up the leg.  The fifth toe in most modern dogs is found only on the front legs. African wild dogs have actually lost the fifth toe on the front legs, but it is found on all other dog species.

Borophagine dogs evolved from ancestors with five digits on each foot. They were capable of running long and hard, like wolves and other modern dogs, but they had not yet lost the dewclaw on the hind legs.

So there were once wolves that were not wolves and dogs that had hyena features living in North America, and these animals had dewclaws on their hind legs.

 

 

 

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Neville is an Irish water spaniel who is missing in the Watertown, South Dakota, area.

According to the Craig’s List ad about him, he went missing west of town and is wearing a blue Flexi lead.

Check the ad for more info.

 

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Freak pug

Everyone needs a dog with no muzzle!

 

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Cammie is a little white angel

And she wants you to keep thinking that way.

She’s an angel– who never growls or fights or poops behind the couch.

That’s Rhodie.

Not Cammie the angel.

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"Shhh! Don't tell anyone, we might not be a unique species after all!"

Jess from DesertWindHounds and I had a discussion yesterday on this post on BorderWars, which discusses the real lessons we need to learn from the Isle Royale wolves.

As these discussions tend to go, there was mention of the island fox (Urocyon littoralis) of California’s Channel Islands.  It is a particularly inbred animal, and those on the island of San Nicolas are thought to be the most inbred wild mammal population ever documented.

This discussion led to me voicing skepticism that island foxes were actually a valid species.

Yes, I’m aware of a mitochondrial DNA study that found that all island foxes have a very different mtDNA sequence from mainland gray foxes, and I’m also aware of a morphological comparison study that shows a great deal of variation between island and mainland foxes.

Neither of these studies actually tell us that these foxes actually represent a unique species.

Morphological alone studies can be confounding when we’re dealing with members of the dog family.  All members of the dog family have an unusually high number of tandem repeats in their DNA. These tandem repeats are responsible for some morphology, and because of how these tandem repeats operate, morphological variation can rapidly evolve. Using dental morphology alone, it was assumed that the South American bush dog was most closely related to the dhole and African wild dog. Genetic analyses have shown that the bush dog is actually closely related to the maned wolf, another South American wild dog.

So be skeptical of morphological studies when they relate to members of the dog family.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis, as I’ve shown time and again on this blog, can often be quite faulty.

The studies that point to an East Asian origin for domestic dogs have looked almost exclusively at mtDNA– lots and lots of different samples of mtDNA.

And yet, I don’t think we can find these to be all that conclusive, especially when the genome-wide analyses show that dogs show a very strong affinity with Middle Eastern wolves.

The problem with mtDNA analysis is that it looks at only maternal inheritance. Matrilines have a tendency of dying out.

If we take the Urocyon foxes, we actually have a very good reason for why matrlines would die out and then be replaced by another one.

I have not seen an mtDNA study that compares the island fox population to a very wide sample of gray foxes. Gray foxes range from the US/Canadian border to Venezuela.  Not only are they widespread, the gray fox lineage is the oldest extant lineage in the dog family.

With such a widespread and ancient lineage, it is possible that there could be wide mtDNA variance across the mainland population of the gray fox.  No one has actually looked at gray foxes this closely.

The island fox could be nothing more than an insular subspecies of the gray fox, but no one has produce convincing evidence one way or the other.

My hypothesis goes something like this:

California gray foxes colonized the Channel Islands and became separated from the mainland population. Over time, the mtDNA sequences on the mainland became replaced, while those on the Channel Islands were not touched.  My guess is that the gray fox’s heightened susceptibility toward distemper destroyed whole populations and entire mtDNA lineages over time on the California mainland. New foxes with different mtDNA lineages were able to colonize California following these outbreaks, and this could explain why California gray foxes and Channel Islands foxes have very different mtDNA sequences.

(A major distemper outbreak greatly reduced the population of gray foxes in Southern California in the mid-90’s. Gray foxes are a major vector for distemper, and if one lives where they do, it is a very good idea to make sure dogs are vaccinated for the disease.)

However, there are some hints.

Jess pointed me to a new analysis that did some more sophisticated carbon-14 dating on the earliest fox fossils on the Channel Islands. These fossils were dated to a much later time than the 10,400 to 16,000 years when it was proposed that the ancestral gray fox came to the Channel Island.   The earliest proposed date from that study is 6,400 years ago, which is thousands of years after humans colonized the islands– and thousands of years after any of the islands were connected to the mainland.

If this later date is more accurate, then it means that the island fox was introduced to the Channel Islands– probably as a pet or semi-domesticated animal. Isotopic analysis revealed that the foxes ate almost nothing but marine life, which they would have obtained from the human companions.

It was not unusual for Native Americas to keep wild dogs as pets. The gray fox was a relatively common pet in some cultures, and on the exotic pet market, one sees gray foxes offered as being more tamable than red foxes.

Now, one should be a little bit cautious of studies that use carbon-dated fossils to tell us when animals arrived. It is possible that the 6,400-year-old fossil is just the oldest fox fossil that has been discovered. Genetic evidence shows that the dingo arrived in Australia earlier than its oldest fossil remains, so it is possible that the foxes came to the islands at an earlier date than the fossils are suggesting.

However, if this later date is correct, the island fox is a gray fox– and it is an old introduced species.  Something like the dingo of the Channel Islands.

The authors of this later study are curious about how quickly a fox could become dwarfed on islands, but as we have seen with so many dog species, morphological variation can evolve very rapidly. Not only do we have the tandem repeat issue, we have discovered that the genes that separate the many different breeds and types of domestic dog are controlled by just slight variance on just a few genes. Similar results have not been confirmed in modern village dog populations, but breed dogs vary from each other by only very tiny genetic variations.  Small size, for example, evolved very soon in the development of the domestic dog, and many modern small dogs have a variant of gene that causes small size that is also found in some Middle Eastern wolves.

Even the older dates associated with the split between island and mainland gray foxes are really recent.  10,400 to 16,000 years is actually much sooner than the date proposed for when dogs and wolves split from each other. The study that sequenced the dog genome revealed that the dog and wolf lineages began to split 27,000 years ago. The first mtDNA studies suggested that dogs and wolves split 135,000 years ago.

It is now nearly impossible to say that dogs and wolves are not the same species– and those who try cannot do so without twisting themselves into severe logical pretzels. But if it is now accepted that dogs and wolves represent the same species, why on earth would we assume that island foxes are a separate species when the split from their mainland ancestors such a relatively short time ago?

In order to resolve this issue, we need in depth analyses of nuclear DNA from gray foxes from a variety of locations and from island foxes.  As the authors of the recent carbon-14 study state, we also need to see if we can find ancient DNA in the old fox bones from the Channel Islands. Only when we get a really broadly-based analysis will we be able to see where island foxes fit.

My guess is the reason why such studies have not been performed is that it is just not a major priority among geneticists. Gray foxes themselves are not widely studied, and although they have been confirmed as canid lineage that dates back 10 million years, they just aren’t that interesting to most scientists.

Also, I don’t think the results of such studies would be received very well.

In all likelihood, the island fox will turn out to be a subspecies.

Subspecies can get special protection– see the Mexican wolf and Florida panther–but it’s easier to protect an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act when it is actually a species.

Now, it may be that if the island foxes are just a subspecies, they can experience some amount of genetic  rescue through the introduction of mainland gray foxes to the island.   The problem is that if that happens, the mainland gray fox genetics will spread through the population, just as the male wolf that colonized Isle Royale wound up swamping the inbred population with his genes.  The foxes on the islands would lose some of their unique morphology, although one should not assume that they would become larger. Gray foxes native to Central and northern South America are not much larger than the island foxes, and foxes from these populations would probably be the best choice for an outcross.

But if genetic rescue is attempted, one runs the risk of losing an inbred population of foxes that are able to produce pretty interesting data. The heavily inbred San Nicolas population has rather diverse MHC haplotypes– the result of balancing selection.

It’s much easier for science to operate under the assumption that Urocyon littoralis is a unique species.

It probably isn’t.

That’s my wager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This painting by Sir Edwin Landseer is of one of the Chillingham cattle. This bull charged and gored a gamekeeper, but the deerhound on the left managed to hold the bull off until it was shot.

The notion of keeping herds of feral cattle for hunting purposes sounds a bit odd to most modern North Americans.

After all,  we have plenty of large game species still running about on our ranges, and although it might cost some money for the average person to get to shoot one, the animals are still there in sufficient numbers for them to be hunted.

In Britain, large game species were largely gone by the late Medieval Period.

The native wild cattle of Britain, the British variant of the Eurasian aurochs, was extinct by the Bronze Age.

However, within the forests and parkland of Britain, there existed herds of cattle that were large free-roaming and freely breeding.

I say “largely” because there was always a system of management.

It is thought that these herds of cattle actually descend from free-roaming cattle that were enclosed upon baronial hunting lands in the thirteenth century, but that is not the romantic story.

The romantic story is that Britain was once inhabited with vast herds of white, long-horned cattle that roamed freely across the island.

Some stories say the Roman introduced them. Others say that the aboriginal cattle of Britain were always white.

I know of no sources that discuss the existence of white aurochsen.

And it’s sort of a moot point to say that these cattle are aurochsen.  Not a single one of the extant forms of park cattle, as they are known today, approaches the aurochs in size.  The Chillingham herd, the most famous of the park cattle, consists of cattle that are significantly smaller than improved breeds, and it is widely known that the aurochs was much larger than any domestic cattle.

The truth of the matter is that polled and improved cattle have existed in Britain even before the existence of these “wild cattle” herds. Celtic Britain had its fair share of polled cattle, and the notion that all of these cattle were white is also a bit difficult to accept. Perhaps the most primitive of all British cattle breeds is the Highland breed, and it comes in solid red or black– not white.

These “wild cattle”  may have some roots in the beginning of the English hunting preserve system in the thirteenth century. Barons were given right to close off forests and use them solely for the preservation of game. Prior to the development of this system, cattle and other stock roamed freely in the forests, but after they were closed off, the cattle were left in there to breed on their own.  This enclosure was not exactly like the Enclosure Movement that wold come centuries later, for under the Charter of the Forest, peasants were given limited access to these forests.   It is possible that these cattle were descended from animals that were enclosed during the initial development of the hunting preserve, or they could have been continuously augmented with free-roaming stock that their peasant owners were unable to collect.

Whatever their origin, during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, setting up vast hunting preserves became a passion among the landed aristocracy.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, romantic nationalism spread throughout the British Isles, and when it became accepted knowledge that the aboriginal cattle of Britain were white and long-horned, many of these preserves managed herds of white long-horned cattle– which were often hunted in much the same way red and fallow deer were.  Packs of dogs were sent out after the cattle, which were then followed by horseback. At Charley Castle’s hunting park, the cattle would be chased, but the dispatch would be done as the bull ran the gauntlet of shooting gentlemen who took refuge in trees and blasted away at him with shotguns as he ran by.

The white cattle were became living symbols of the English nation, and if foxhunting had not become more popular over time,  this activity could have become the national past time.  However, I think it became obvious to everyone that these animals were nothing more than managed herds of pseudo-wild animals.

These cattle were often celebrated in contemporary texts as wild animals, but they really weren’t   When the herds were much more numerous, any calf that was born with atypical coloring was culled.  There was a human selection pressure for the white coloration, and the natural environment selected for cattle with good horns and foraging behavior. Of course, nature also selected for slightly smaller animals than the typical “improved breeds.”

In weird way, these cattle hunts were the British equivalent of the Spanish bullfight– which also mixed in the Northern European cultural meme of the wild hunt.  These hunts were supposed to show man’s mastery over nature, and if everyone happened to be buying into the theory that these were the aboriginal wild white cattle of England, it was man’s mastery over the wild that once was the island of Great Britain.

By the twentieth century, it was widely established that these cattle were nothing more than specially manage game animals that derived from feral cattle.  Discussion of these animals in John Charles Cornish’s The Living Animals of Today (1902) explains very clearly why these animals were not the supposed white aurochsen of Britain:

The so-called “Wild Cattle” found in the parks of Chillingham and Chartley, as well as in Lord Leigh’s park at Lyme, and in that of the Duke of Hamilton at Cadzow Castle, Scotland, are probably not the descendants of an indigenous wild race. It is not without reluctance that the belief in their wild descent has been abandoned. But the evidence seems fairly conclusive as to the antiquity of these white cattle, regarded as a primitive breed, and of the unlikelihood of their being survivors of a truly wild stock. They are almost identical in many points with the best breeds of modern cattle, and probably represent the finest type possessed by the ancient inhabitants of these islands. But they are far smaller than the original Wild Ox, or Aurochs, the ancestor of our domestic breeds. The skulls of these large wild oxen, which still survived in the Black Forest in Caesar’s time, have been dug up in many parts of England, especially in the Thames Valley, and may be seen at the Natural History Museum. The remains of the extinct wild ox, the Bos urus of the Romans, show that, if not so large as an elephant, as Caesar heard, its size was gigantic, reckoned by any modern cattle standard whatever. It probably stood 6 feet high at the shoulder, and there is every reason to believe that it was the progenitor of the modern race of domestic cattle in Europe. It seems certain that the Chartley Park herd did once run wild in Needwood Forest; but so do the Italian buffaloes in the Maremma, and the Spanish bulls on the plains of Andalusia. Those at Chartley have been kept in the park, which is very wild and remote, so long that they have gradually lost many of the attributes of domestication. This is even more marked in the case of Lord Tankervill’s white cattle at Chillingham. An observant visitor to Chillingham lately noted that the bulls fight for the possession of the cows, and that one is occasionally killed in these combats. The cows still “stampede” with their calves when alarmed, and hide them for a week or ten days after they are born. The horns of the Chillingham cattle turn up; those of the bulls of the Chartley herd are straight or slightly inclined downwards. Crossbreds between the Chartley cattle and some other herds of reputed ancient descent may generally be seen at the London Zoological Gardens.

Formerly there were several other herds of ancient white cattle. One was at Gisburne, in Yorkshire; another at Chatelherault Park, in Lanarkshire; and records of herds at Bishop Auckland in Durham, Barnard Castle, Blair Athol,Burton Constable, Naworth Castle, and other ancient peaks are preserved. Probably all were of a breed highly prized in ancient days, which was allowed the run of the forests adjacent to the homes of their owners; then, as the forests were cleared, they were gradually taken up and enclosed in parks (pg. 208-209).

Park cattle still exist today, but these animals have been heavily interbred with improved English longhorns and shorthorns and other breeds of domestic cattle. The English white park breed is derived from these crosses. The American white park cattle breed might be derived from this stock, but it is much more likely derived from a few crosses with some imported English white park cattle with cattle of the Aberdeen-Angus type.

The only pure park cattle of this hunted type remained in their “wild state” into the twentieth century were at Chillingham Park and at Chartley Castle’s hunting park.

Chillingham cows foraging in the snow. During the winter months, these "wild cattle" are fed hay.

Today, the only pure “wild” herd can be found at Chillingham Park in Northumberland.  The Chillingham cattle were normally stalked in the same fashion as a Highland stag. The terrain was just too rugged to do mounted hunts.

Much romance is still made about these cattle being the remnant of the wild cattle of Britain, when in reality they are the descend from cattle that were specifically managed to be an ersatz large game species.

If you think about it, this isn’t really all that different from people in the United States who manage feral hogs as “wild boar.”   We also have people in New Zealand and Texas who manage primitive strains of domestic sheep for hunting purposes, often crossing them with mouflon to really get them looking wild.

Britain has lost most of its large mammal species in the past few thousand years. The largest wild ungulate on the island is the red deer, which isn’t nearly as large as its close cousin, the wapiti or North American elk. There was a plan to reintroduce moose (the actual real elk) to the Highlands of Scotland, but I’ve not heard if this project has advanced or not.

But that project would have been using Swedish elk.

The British sportsmen were using managed free-roaming cattle to restock the aurochs.

That’s a bit like releasing golden retrievers to restock wolves.

But when you don’t have anything else,  I guess some free-ranging cattle can work as a game species.

I just wouldn’t compare them to bison or aurochsen or Cape buffalo.

 

 

 

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Spot the cat

Do you see the cat?

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A French veterinarian named Dr. Sauvel shot this kouprey in Cambodia. He made a trophy out of the horns and displayed them at his home in France. The French zoologist Achille Urbain discovered the horns at Sauvel's home and thought they might represent a new species. He would later use this discovery to confirm that a wild cow brought over from Cambodia was actually a unique species, which he called the kouprey and named Bos sauveli in honor of the veterinarian who shot this specimen.

Some people might be a little surprised with the findings of a recent study that showed that the s0-called red wolf is nothing more than a coyote with some wolf ancestry. Because the Eastern US is full of coyotes with wolf ancestry, one might be open to questioning the validity of the red wolf as a unique species– much less an endangered one.

I think the bulk of the evidence shows that the red wolf as we know it now is a contrived species.  The so-called red wolves of earlier times may have been the original eastern population of coyote that was exterminated along with the wolves that were native to the same region.  And the so-called Eastern wolf species has been found to be a wolf with some coyote ancestry. What we’re calling an Eastern coyote today is primarily Western coyote with some wolf and dog crossed in.

Both of these animals are derived from hybrids that existed in the wild. The wolves of the western Great Lakes region had coyote genes introduced into their populations 600 to 900 years ago, but the vast majority of these animals would not have existed had Western man not killed off all the wolves in the East.

As difficult as it is for people to accept, the Eastern wolf and the red wolf likely are not valid species. One is a wolf with some coyote genes, and the other is a coyote with some wolf genes.

However, there have been cases in which an animal was declared a hybrid, but then later studies revealed actually to be a unique species after all.

Probably the best example of a hybrid origin being falsified in recent years is the kouprey.

The kouprey is a wild cattle species that lives primarily in Cambodia, but it can also be found in adjacent parts of Laos and Thailand.

If you’ve never heard of a kouprey, it’s because they are very rare, and they were only described to science in 1937. A French zoologist named Achille Urbain discovered some unusual horns that were mounted as a hunting trophy in the home of a veterinarian who had worked in Cambodia. After examining the horns closely, Urbain thought that they might come from a new species.  One animal wound up at the Vincennes Zoo in Paris, which Urbain used as his holotype specimen. Later, Harvard zoologist Harold Jefferson Coolidge would elevate the kouprey to its own genus, which he called Novibos (“the new ox.”)

It was the last of the cattle species to have been documented by science, and it was one of the last large species of land mammal to have been documented.

For decades, it was treated as an enigmatic species of wild cattle. The Cambodian people recognized the uniqueness of this animal, which occurred almost exclusively within their nation’s borders, and they declared the kouprey to be their national animal.

Lots of romance and national identity was tied up in the kouprey.

Then, in 2006, Northwestern University biologist Gary Galbreath co-authored an article that revealed that the kouprey was nothing more than a cross between the zebu (indicus domestic cattle species) and the banteng, a much more common species of cattle that is native to Southeast Asia and also exists as a domestic animal.  This zebu/banteng hybrid then went wild in the Cambodian forest.

Galbreath’s study compared mitochondrial DNA fromCambodian banteng and two captive kouprey from a Cambodian wildlife rescue facility.  This study merely examined the cytochrome b gene, but it found that the two kouprey were actually very similar to the banteng.

This study went out into the popular press as declaring the kouprey an entirely made-up species.

However, not everyone was so convinced.

Galbreath’s claim was a major affront to a major paradigm within bovine taxonomy.

So it needed a more in depth analysis to see if the hybrid origin theory for the kouprey was actually true.

Two French zoologists, Alexandre Hassanin and Anne Ropiquet, analyzed three mitochondrial DNA regions and five nuclear DNA fragments that represented 4582 nucleotides.  They found that kouprey have nuclear DNA that is quite distinct from banteng or zebu, and the reason why Galbreath received such a close overlap between Cambodian banteng and kouprey is that the banteng of Cambodia have hybridized with kouprey.  Somewhere along the line, a domestic banteng bull mated with a kouprey cow, and the descendants of these hybrids comprise a large proportion of the banteng in Cambodia.  A fossilized skull of a kouprey was also discovered that was dated to the Pleistocene or early Holocene– well before indicus cattle were domesticated.

Galbreath has since rejected his initial findings.

This study that looked at nuclear DNA in the kouprey looked at much smaller part of the genome than the study that found no evidence for an Eastern wolf species and found the red wolf to be predominantly coyote in origin.

Yet this study very quickly discovered that the kouprey has very unique genetic markers.

This study very clearly falsified the hypothesis that the kouprey was derived from a hybrid between indicus cattle and the banteng.

That has not happened with the red wolf or the Eastern wolf. Indeed, the study that found them to be hybrid in origin was perhaps the most in depth analysis of wolf and coyote nuclear DNA ever performed.

It is possible to falsify the hypothesis that organisms are hybrid in origin.  In the case of the red wolf and the Eastern wolf, it has not been.

But in the case of the kouprey, it clearly has.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t say that no one has seen a wild kouprey since 1983.

They may very well be extinct in the wild.

So I guess it’s good to know that this animal actually was a valid species.

But that would have been nicer to have known while they were still relatively common.

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The gayal or mithun

This cow-like animal is a gayal or mithun.  It is a domestic animal in South and Southeast Asia.

This particular animal would be called a mithun because it has more cattle-like features than the ones called gayals.

What exactly is mithun or gayal?

That’s actually a pretty good question.

The scientific name for this animal is Bos frontalis.  It is in the same genus as the domestic cattle species, and like other members of this genus, it can hybridize with domestic cattle.  Apparently, the hybrids between domestic cattle and gayal/mithun are more often fertile.

There are three hypotheses for what the gayal/mithun actually is.

  1. It’s a hybrid between the gaur (Bos gaurus) and the domestic cow.
  2. It’s a domesticated gaur.
  3. It’s a domesticated animal that is closely related to the gaur that has since gone extinct.
  4. It’s a domesticated animal whose wild ancestor has gone extinct, and there has been a lot of crossbreeding between gayal/mithun with the wild gaur and domestic cattle.

Some authorities think of the gayal and mithun as different entities.

One would think that the literature would have cleared this up by now, but the literature is virtually everywhere.

Different sources claim that gayal and mithun are different animals or that gayal are directly derived from gaur, while mithun are gayal/cattle hybrids.

Such confusion is probably why we still hold this animal to be Bos frontalis.

The latest research holds that the gayal and mithun are the same thing— and they are domesticated gaur. However, these domesticated gaur have heavily crossbred with both indicus and taurine cattle in some areas.

More research needs to be performed in order to tease out exactly how much of which species contributed to its genome.

It is correct to say that this animal is a gaur/cow hybrid, but it may be that not all animals have cattle ancestry. In fact, I’d be surprised if all of them did.

If these animals are found to be predominantly gaur in ancestry, one would be more willing to question the validity of Bos frontalis as a legitimate species.   The proper name for this animal would be Bos gaurus frontalis.

But because virtually every study on these animals involves mitotchondrial DNA. we really can’t determine the exact contribution of the domestic cattle species and the gaur in the the gayal or mithun.

So it’s a mystery animal.

I lean toward it being a domestic gaur with some domestic cattle blood.

But we need a larger n study that includes gaur, various types of domestic cattle, and mithun and gayal from different countries in South and Southeast Asia.

It also needs to be a study that looks at nuclear DNA– just because mitochondrial DNA studies can be quite inaccurate.

 

 

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