Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Northwestern Biologists Demote Southeast Asia's 'Forest Ox'

Date:
September 16, 2006
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Recognized as a new species in 1937, the kouprey, an ox that is an icon of Southeast Asian conservation, is feared extinct. Now, Northwestern University biologists and a Cambodian conservationist present compelling genetic evidence that the kouprey may never have existed as a wild, natural species. The researchers compared a published DNA sequence from the kouprey with those of a true wild ox and concluded that the kouprey is most likely a feral hybrid.

It was one of the most famous discoveries of the 20th century. Shrouded in mystery since its recognition as a new species in 1937, the kouprey -- an ox with dramatic, curving horns -- has been an icon of Southeast Asian conservation. Feared extinct, it's been the object of perilous expeditions to the region's jungles by adventurers, scientists and journalists.

Related Articles


Now, in a paper published by the Journal of Zoology (London), Northwestern University biologists and a Cambodian conservationist present compelling genetic evidence that the kouprey may never have existed as a wild, natural species.

The researchers compared a published DNA sequence from the kouprey with sequences obtained from a true Cambodian wild ox, the banteng. The researchers had predicted, based on a study of kouprey anatomy, that the kouprey was a hybrid form and would show mitochondrial DNA similar to that of the banteng. The prediction was confirmed by their analysis.

The kouprey, which is now the national animal of Cambodia, may have originated as a domestic hybrid, between banteng and zebu cattle, that later became wild. ("Kouprey" means "forest ox" in the Khmer language.)

"The kouprey has acquired a rather romantic, exotic reputation," said Gary J. Galbreath, senior author of the paper and associate director of Northwestern's Program in Biological Sciences. "Some people would understandably be sad to see it dethroned as a species."

But, added Galbreath, "It is surely desirable not to waste time and money trying to locate or conserve a domestic breed gone wild. The limited funds available for conservation should be used to protect wild species." Galbreath has been traveling to Southeast Asia studying its animals since 1999.

Ironically, Galbreath initially began his work in Southeast Asia in hopes of identifying a new species of bear. It turned out to be an undescribed golden color phase of the moon bear. He also was involved in the debunking of another alleged new species of hoofed animal, the "khting vor," that was only known to science from specimens of its horns. Galbreath and others showed that these horns were the work of human artisans -- the "khting vor" was a fake.

Instead of finding new species, Galbreath said, "I've been involved in showing that two named species of large mammal may never have existed as such." But, he notes, "In the end, good science is about what is true, not what is desired to be true."

Galbreath hopes the paper will serve to focus conservation time, dollars and attention on real species that need saving. "The definitely real wild oxen of mainland Southeast Asia -- Banteng, Gaur, wild Water Buffalo -- could soon become extinct if more is not done to protect them from rampant poaching," Galbreath said. "I hope that the publicity from the kouprey story can help make people aware of this problem."

The other authors of the paper are John C. Mordacq, lecturer in the Program in Biological Sciences at Northwestern, and F. Hunter Weiler, a conservationist with the Wildlife Protection Office of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Northwestern Biologists Demote Southeast Asia's 'Forest Ox'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 September 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060915200235.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2006, September 16). Northwestern Biologists Demote Southeast Asia's 'Forest Ox'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060915200235.htm
Northwestern University. "Northwestern Biologists Demote Southeast Asia's 'Forest Ox'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060915200235.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

AP (Feb. 28, 2015) Researchers following endangered killer whales spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population dangerously low. (Feb. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Drinks for Your Health

The Best Drinks for Your Health

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) When it comes to health and fitness, there&apos;s lots of talk about what foods to eat, but there are a few liquids that can promote good nutrition. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the healthiest drinks to boost your health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) From sweet cherries to sugar snap peas, spring is the peak season for some of the tastiest and healthiest produce. Krystin Goodwin (@Krystingoodwin) has the best seasonal fruits and veggies to spring in to good health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins