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Can horses help solve a big evolution mystery?

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modern horses/arjecahn on flickr.

From Luke Dunning at Conversation:

Now a new study published in Science has looked at the last 18m years of horse evolution to ask whether the origin of new horse species was linked with rapid physical changes. As you would expect, horse evolution has seen bursts of diversification when there have been new ecological opportunities. These opportunities included increased food availability, which meant larger and more varied populations of horses could be sustained.

But the fossil record shows these bursts of horse diversification didn’t follow the rapid evolution of new physical traits such as body size and teeth shape. Horses didn’t need to change to be able to colonise the Old World, presumably because they were already adapted to similar grassland habitats in America.

The physical features that distinguish modern horse species in different locations evolved later. They are likely to be a result of short-term responses to extreme environmental conditions and shifts in resource availability.More.

The obvious question is, how can evolution just happen very rapidly (“short-term responses to extreme environmental conditions”) unless there is a built-in program that enables it? Yes, tst is a bg mystery but Dunning does not attempt to unpack the matter. There be dragons, not horses.

See also: Horse facial expressions similar to human ones?

and

Convergent evolution? Horses, humans see world the same way

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One Reply to “Can horses help solve a big evolution mystery?

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    Um, a horse is a horse, of course of course. The horses brought BACK to North America by the Spaniards in the 1500s were genetically IDENTICAL to the horses that died out in North America thousands of years before.

    So there are lots of BREEDS of horse, the same way there are lots of BREEDS of dogs. But the horse breeds can all successfully interbreed. And horse-LIKE animals, such as zebras, can’t interbreed with horses.

    So we have 20 million years of STABILITY in the horse and the simply amazing migration of horses COMPLETELY around the world through distinctly different environments without ANY new species. I can’t think of a single better disproof of Evolution.

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