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Evolution, systematics and phylogeography of pleistocene horses in the new world: a molecular perspective

Weinstock, Jaco, Willerslev, Eske, Sher, Andrei, Tong, Wenfei, Ho, Simon Y.W., Rubenstein, Dan, Storer, John, Burns, James, Martin, Larry, Bravi, Claudio, Prieto, Alfredo, Froese, Duane, Scott, Eric, Xulong, Lai and Cooper, Alan (2005) Evolution, systematics and phylogeography of pleistocene horses in the new world: a molecular perspective PLoS Biology, 3, (8), 0001-0007. (doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030241).

Record type: Article


The rich fossil record of horses has made them a classic example of evolutionary processes. However, while the overall picture of equid evolution is well known, the details are surprisingly poorly understood, especially for the later Pliocene and Pleistocene, c. 3 million to 0.01 million years (Ma) ago, and nowhere more so than in the Americas. There is no consensus on the number of equid species or even the number of lineages that existed in these continents.

Likewise, the origin of the endemic South American genus Hippidion is unresolved, as is the phylogenetic position of the “stilt-legged” horses of North America. Using ancient DNA sequences, we show that, in contrast to current models based on morphology and a recent genetic study, Hippidion was phylogenetically close to the caballine (true) horses, with origins considerably more recent than the currently accepted date of c. 10 Ma. Furthermore, we show that stilt-legged horses, commonly regarded as Old World migrants related to the hemionid asses of Asia, were in fact an endemic North American lineage. Finally, our data suggest that there were fewer horse species in late Pleistocene North America than have been named on morphological grounds. Both caballine and stilt-legged lineages may each have comprised a single, wide-ranging species.

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Published date: 2005


Local EPrints ID: 28799
ISSN: 1544-9173
PURE UUID: ea4f1e22-6882-4950-9dee-59874b3de584

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Date deposited: 05 May 2006
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 16:00

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Author: Jaco Weinstock
Author: Eske Willerslev
Author: Andrei Sher
Author: Wenfei Tong
Author: Simon Y.W. Ho
Author: Dan Rubenstein
Author: John Storer
Author: James Burns
Author: Larry Martin
Author: Claudio Bravi
Author: Alfredo Prieto
Author: Duane Froese
Author: Eric Scott
Author: Lai Xulong
Author: Alan Cooper

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