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Ancient DNA helps clarify the origins of two extinct New World horse species

ring Strait, the new PLoS Biology study shows that the American and Eurasian horses' genomes are too distinct for this theory. "We found that the stilt-legged horse in North America was in fact a home-grown endemic, and had just converged morphologically, probably due to shared environments," Cooper explains.

The study also suggests that all the North American caballines--traditionally classified as multiple species based on their diverse size--belong to the same species. Thus, only two horse lineages lived in North America during the Late Pleistocene, the stilt-legged horses and the caballines. Though the different horses in each species "varied in size and shape quite a bit" regionally and temporally, Cooper explains, "we see no genetic evidence that these are different species."

If true, the study's new model could provide a tool for exploring how environmental adaptations give rise to morphological variation.

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Citation: Weinstock J, Willerslev E, Sher A, Tong W, Ho SYW, et al. (2005) Evolution, systematics, and phylogeography of Pleistocene horses in the new world: A molecular perspective. PLoS Biol 3(8): e241.


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Source:PLoS Biology


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