Tag Archives: Horses

Geoscience seminar this Friday – Janina Rannikko

Dear all,

Janina Rannikko will give the geoscience seminar this Friday (abstract below):


Time: Friday 27.1. at 14.15

Location: D114, Physicum, Kumpula campus



My PhD research is mainly focused on East African suids (pigs) in Plio-Pleistocene. During 8 million years there has been interesting shifts in the faunal and environmental records of Turkana Basin area. The other part of my work has been fundamental research of dental wear, which has been conducted with the chewing machine built here in Helsinki University.


All are welcome!


Locomotive implication of a Pliocene three-toed horse skeleton from Tibet and its paleo-altimetry significance


The Tibetan Plateau is the youngest and highest plateau on Earth, and its elevation reaches one-third of the height of the troposphere, with profound dynamic and thermal effects on atmospheric circulation and climate. The uplift of the Tibetan Plateau was an important factor of global climate change during the late Cenozoic and strongly influenced the development of the Asian monsoon system. However, there have been heated debates about the history and process of Tibetan Plateau uplift, especially the paleo-altimetry in different geological ages. Here we report a well-preserved skeleton of a 4.6 million-y-old three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin, southwestern Tibet. Morphological features indicate that H. zandaense was a cursorial horse that lived in alpine steppe habitats. Because this open landscape would be situated above the timberline on the steep southern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, the elevation of the Zanda Basin at 4.6 Ma was estimated to be ∼4,000 m above sea level using an adjustment to the paleo-temperature in the middle Pliocene, as well as comparison with modern vegetation vertical zones. Thus, we conclude that the southwestern Tibetan Plateau achieved the present-day elevation in the mid-Pliocene.

Shrinking horses and climate change

Evolution of the Earliest Horses Driven by Climate Change in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

Ross Secord, Jonathan I. Bloch, Stephen G. B. Chester, Doug M. Boyer, Aaron R. Wood, Scott L. Wing, Mary J. Kraus, Francesca A. McInerney, John Krigbaum

Body size plays a critical role in mammalian ecology and physiology. Previous research has shown that many mammals became smaller during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), but the timing and magnitude of that change relative to climate change have been unclear. A high-resolution record of continental climate and equid body size change shows a directional size decrease of ~30% over the first ~130,000 years of the PETM, followed by a ~76% increase in the recovery phase of the PETM. These size changes are negatively correlated with temperature inferred from oxygen isotopes in mammal teeth and were probably driven by shifts in temperature and possibly high atmospheric CO2 concentrations. These findings could be important for understanding mammalian evolutionary responses to future global warming.




Dietary Change and Evolution of Horses in North America

Dietary Change and Evolution of Horses in North America
Matthew C. Mihlbachler, Florent Rivals, Nikos Solounias, Gina M. Semprebon

The evolution of high-crowned molars among horses (Family Equidae) is thought to be an adaptation for abrasive diets associated with the spread of grasslands. The sharpness and relief of the worn cusp apices of teeth (mesowear) are a measure of dietary abrasion. We collected mesowear data for North American Equidae for the past 55.5 million years to test the association of molar height and dietary abrasion. Mesowear trends in horses are reflective of global cooling and associated vegetation changes. There is a strong correlation between mesowear and crown height in horses; however, most horse paleopopulations had highly variable amounts of dietary abrasion, suggesting that selective pressures for crown height may have been weak much of the time. However, instances of higher abrasion were observed in some paleopopulations, suggesting intervals of stronger selection for the evolution of dentitions, including the early Miocene shortly before the first appearance of Equinae, the horse subfamily in which high-crowned dentitions evolved.

Science 4 March 2011:
Vol. 331 no. 6021 pp. 1178-1181
DOI: 10.1126/science.1196166