Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

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

28.06.2005


The Patagonian Hippidion horse genus and North American stilt-legged horses have found a new place on the evolutionary tree, according to a new article in the open access journal PLoS Biology. In the paper, Jaco Weinstock, Alan Cooper, and colleagues use ancient DNA to argue that the Hippidion genus is younger than previously thought and that American stilt-legged horses were American endemics, not Asian emigres. Their analysis has also whittled down the taxonomy of North American species to just two. "I think the biggest issue is that we showed the apparent lack of species diversity in North American horses in the Late Pleistocene - as horses are a poster child of evolution," says Cooper.



To explore the origins of the horses, the authors examined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) extracted from fossilized horse bones. Mitochondria, which have their own genome, contain a stretch of sequence that’s useful for inferring evolutionary relationships: though the region undergoes high mutation rates, the patterns of mutations remain stable over thousands of generations. The mtDNA analysis of the South and North American horses provided evidence that stilt-legged horses, the Hippidion genus, and caballine, or true horses, all arose from a common lineage.

The authors showed that the Hippidion genus is only 3 million years old, a much more recent date than previously believed. "South American horses were thought to stem from a very old lineage of fossil forms in North America," Cooper says. "And instead, our data show that they probably diverged and moved into South America around three million years ago, during the great biotic interchange that occurred when the Panama Isthmus was established."


And while morphological similarities between American stilt-legged horses and certain Eurasian caballines (a group that includes both the domestic horse and the nearly extinct Przewalskii horse of Mongolia) suggest that the stilt-legged horses once trekked across the Bering 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.

Paul Ocampo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.plos.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland

nachricht Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>