Researchers have found the oldest piece of horse DNA and this will help them understand horse evolution. Unforuntely, it wasn’t enough to figure out exactly what the horse looked like—hair color, for example, will have to wait for further analysis—but it helped the researchers come up with several new ideas about horse evolution.
So what were some of the findings?
The genes for smelling and the immune system seemed to be especially important for horses’ survival over generations.
Horse populations changed a lot with climactic changes over the past 2 million years. “Basically, when it’s really cold, it’s good to be a horse,” one of the lead scientists, Eske Willerslev, said during a press conference recorded in Sweden. “When it’s warm, it’s pretty bad.”
The Przewalski’s horse really is a wild species; it hasn’t interbred with domestic horse.
The Equus genus, which includes all modern horses, zebras and donkeys, first evolved 4.0 to 4.5 million years ago. That’s about twice as old as the oldest Equus common ancestor fossil that’s ever been found.
Overall – a very important day for uncovering more about horse evolution.