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Earliest Known Horse Shrank Due to Warming Planet: Report
Date:2/23/2012

Because it's over a long enough time, you can argue very strongly that what you're looking at is natural selection and evolution -- that it's actually corresponding to the shift in temperature and driving the evolution of these horses," Bloch said in a University of Nebraska-Lincoln news release.

Secord added: "This has implications, potentially, for what we might expect to see over the next century or two, at least with some of the climate models that are predicting that we will see warming of as much as 4 degrees Centigrade (7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next 100 years."

Scientists studying birds have already started to notice a possible decrease in birds' body size, Secord noted in the news release.

"One of the issues here is that warming [during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum] happened much slower, over 10,000 to 20,000 years to get 10 degrees hotter, whereas now we're expecting it to happen over a century or two," Secord said. "So there's a big difference in scale and one of the questions is, 'Are we going to see the same kind of response?' Are animals going to be able to keep up and readjust their body sizes over the next couple of centuries?"

More information

The Florida Museum of Natural History offers a fossil horse cybermuseum.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, news release, Feb. 23, 2012


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