The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved an international team of researchers and the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) based at the University of Adelaide.
Only the modern horse, zebras, wild asses and donkey survive today, but many other lineages have become extinct over the last 50,000 years.
ACAD Director Professor Alan Cooper says despite an excellent fossil record of the Equidae, there are still many gaps in our evolutionary knowledge. “Our results change both the basic picture of recent equid evolution, and ideas about the number and nature of extinct species.”
The study used bones from caves to identify new horse species in Eurasia and South America, and reveal that the Cape zebra, an extinct giant species from South Africa, were simply large variants of the modern Plains zebra. The Cape zebra weighed up to 400 kilograms and stood up to 150 centimetres at the shoulder blades.
“The Plains zebra group once included the famous extinct quagga, so our results confirm that this group was highly variable in both coat colour and size.”
Lead author of the paper, Dr Ludovic Orlando from Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon, says the group discovered a new species of the distinct, small hippidion horse in South America.
“Previous fossil records suggested this group was part of an ancient lineage from North America but the DNA showed these unusual forms were part of the modern radiation of equid species,” Dr Orlando says.
A new species of ass was also detected on the Russian Plains and appears to be related to European fossils dating back more than 1.5 million years. Carbon dates on the bones reveal that this species was alive as recently as 50,000 years ago.
“Overall, the new genetic results suggest that we have under-estimated how much a single species can vary over time and space, and mistakenly assumed more diversity among extinct species of megafauna,” Professor Cooper says.
“This has important implications for our understanding of human evolution, where a large number of species are currently recognised from a relatively fragmentary fossil record.
“It also implies that the loss of species diversity that occurred during the megafaunal extinctions at the end of the last Ice Age may not have been as extensive as previously thought.
In contrast, ancient DNA studies have revealed that the loss of genetic diversity in many surviving species appears to have been extremely severe,” Professor Cooper says. “This has serious implications for biodiversity and the future impacts of climate change.”Professor Alan Cooper
Professor Alan Cooper | Newswise Science News
Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel
06.08.2020 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Tellurium makes the difference
06.08.2020 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.
Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...
An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.
Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...
Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...
“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.
Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...
An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.
Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...
23.07.2020 | Event News
21.07.2020 | Event News
07.07.2020 | Event News
06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences
06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.08.2020 | Life Sciences