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The Climate Change Bison

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You think you’ve got problems with climate change, try being a Bison 30,000 years ago! According to researchers in Canada who are examining ancient Bison bones found in permafrost, they will now be better able to understand how these animals’ genes changed to adapt to rapidly changing climate. We’re not talking an overnight change, but over the course of generations, what are known as “epigenetic changes” do occur at a relatively rapid pace.

One of the exciting possibilities for today’s researchers is that they now have the technology to manipulate genes and see what effects that would have. The process known as “DNA-methylation” is one of the new methods being used to analyze the Bison bones discovery, as it allows for the turning on and off of certain genes. Epigenetics being a new field, this work is considered to be the first of its kind.

The secret that will now come closer to being revealed is about how animals adapted to the pressure of what were rapid climate changes over the course of many thousands of years. They are using both the newly discovered sample as well as the mummified remains of a 30 year old cow from New Zealand, comparing and manipulating both DNA. Researchers are already reporting that comparisons have revealed similarities and that it is possible to measure the epigenetic state in the past.

Look out Climate Change, we’ve got an old wise Bison to help us better understand you.

Source: Cosmos Magazine

Photo: Martin Lopatka / flickr

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