Horses and tapirs changed 47 million years ago – the former were lower during this period, and the latter were significantly higher than now. This was established thanks to the analysis of fossils, which was conducted by archaeologists from the University of Tübingen. An article describing the study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
47 million years ago – in the Middle Eocene – the Earth was much warmer, and the territory of modern Germany, where the excavations were carried out, was a marshy subtropical forest in which the ancestors of the horse, ancient tapirs, large land crocodiles, as well as giant turtles and lizards lived.
Researchers excavated the Geiseltal Goural Basin in the Saxony-Anhalt region, in the outskirts of Munich, and discovered several hundred fossilized remains of ancient mammals. Analysis of the fossils showed that their age is approximately 47 million years.
Among the remains, archaeologists have discovered fossils of ancient horses, the size of which was much smaller than that of existing individuals of this species. The growth of horses in that period, scientists compare with the growth of a Labrador.
Scientists decided to compare the ancient horses with the ancestors of the tapirs called Lofiodon – an analysis showed that the tapirs at that time were much higher.
“All the data indicate that the body sizes of horses and tapirs evolved differently not because of the climate, but because of different life cycles. Small animals breed faster and die earlier, while larger animals live longer and have lower breeding rates. They must eat more and therefore have fewer resources for reproduction, but, being large, they encounter fewer predators. “Tapirs and horses 47 million years ago probably maximized the various benefits of different life cycle strategies that led to different evolutionary paths that appeared on their body sizes”.
Marton Rabi, lead author of research