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evolution of the horse

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evolution of the horse

For many people, the horse family remains the classic example of evolution.

As more and more horse fossils have been found, some ideas about horse

evolution have changed, but the horse family remains a good example of

evolution. In fact, we now have enough fossils of enough species in enough

genera to examine details of evolutionary change.

Evolution does not occur in a straight line toward a goal, like a ladder; rather,

evolution is like a branching bush, with no predetermined goal. Horse

species were constantly branching off the evolutionary tree and evolving

along various unrelated routes. There’s no discernable straight line of horse

evolution. Many horse species were usually present at the same time, with

various numbers of toes, and adapted to various diets. In other words, horse

evolution had no inherent direction. We only have the impression of straight

line evolution because only one genus happens to still be alive, which

deceives some people into thinking that the one genus was somehow the

target of all the evolution. Instead, that one genus is merely the last surviving

branch of a once mighty and sprawling bush.

Tracing a line of descent from Hyracotherium to Equus reveals several

apparent trends: reduction of toe number, increase in size of cheek teeth,

lengthening of the face, and increase in body size. But these trends are not

seen in all of the horse lines. On the whole, horses got larger, bu...
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