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An international team of scientists have used the latest genetic and anatomical techniques to study the remains of a cow with a short face like a bulldog that fascinated Charles Darwin when he first saw it in Argentina 180 years ago.
The study, by an Australian and Swiss team including UNSW scientist Dr. Laura Wilson, shows the now-extinct cow was a unique breed and – unlike some bulldogs – did not suffer breathing or eating problems because of its peculiar anatomy.
Research - Journal - Scientific - Reports - Scientists
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could help scientists better understand how to protect threatened species.
"Very few people know that hundreds of years ago a cow with a face similar to the shape of a bulldog's existed, called the niata cow," says Dr. Wilson.
Study - Animal - Characteristics - Finding - Niata
"In our study, we set out to find out more about some of the animal's anatomical and genetic characteristics. Our principal finding is that the niata was a taurine breed, unique among cattle," says Professor Sánchez-Villagra, a scientist at the University of Zurich, and co-author of the study.
Charles Darwin saw this strange animal when he visited the Argentinian Pampas and areas around Buenos Aires in the 1840s. He wrote about it and posed questions about its true nature: its anatomy, relationship to other cows, and its functioning, in view of the peculiar shape of its head. The Swiss anatomist Rütimeyer also wrote about the niata in his extensive studies of cattle.
Cow - Number - Skeletons - Collections - World
The niata cow is now extinct, but a limited number of skeletons still exist in a few collections around the world. With new tools unavailable to the 19th century researchers, the Australian-Swiss team had the unique chance to study the niata's anatomy.
"Until this paper, no attempt to use new and useful methods to understand the anatomy and the evolution of this peculiar cow has ever been...
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