PLEISTOCENE PERIOD: 250,000 - 10,000 years ago
The magnificent European Steppe Wisent, scientifically known as Bison priscus, was revered and hunted by Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon humans during the last Ice Age. Their meat, hide, bone and horn would have been valuable resources to humans in order to survive the harsh environment of the Ice Age. Cave paintings have been discovered depicting stylized wisents, and hunting parties of these animals by prehistoric Man. This beast thrived on the steppes throughout Europe, Central Asia, Beringia and North America during the final Ice Age.
The presence of incredibly long spines on the upper thoracic vertebra have been speculated over in science. First, bison have very large heads relative to their body size. The thoracic spines serve as anchors for the muscles that are needed to support the weight of the head. The larger the head, the larger the muscle mass needed for support. Second, larger dorsal spines and longer scapula give the bison a long stride for its relatively short legs. This allows the bison to walk over long distances with great efficiency of movement. In large grazing animals, energy conservation and efficiency are a definite advantage to survival.