Small horses are very rare at present, but the 48-million-year-old mare fossil of Eurohippus messelensis was not bigger than a Fox Terrier dog.
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Due to paleontologists’ efforts, a new and interesting discovery was made. Scientists have reasons to believe that the recently discovered 48 million-year-old mare fossil holds evidence of oldest uterus in history.
The new discovery was made in the vicinity of Darmstadt, Germany, more specifically, in the Grube Messel pit. The chemical properties of the lake have helped preserve the bones and researchers were able to collect the complete body of the mare fossil.
Further analyses have revealed that the fossil belongs to the equestrian species of Eurohippus messelensis. These specimens lived approximately 50 million years ago, in the Darmstadt region of Germany and had very distinctive features compared to the ones of the modern species.
According to expert Jens Franzen from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, the exemplars of the Eurohippus messelensis species were much smaller than modern horses. Animals had more or less the same height as Fox terrier dogs and this during their adult ages. The newly found bone fragments have allowed scientists to estimate that the ancient horses were approximately 12-inches tall.
Yet, this is not the reason why scientists were intrigued by the new discovery. They were surprised to see that the mare fossil had a uterus and a fully-grown fetus. This observation was made during an X-ray scan, scientists have explained.
Initially, paleontologists noticed only a small grey area in the abdomen of the mare, but could not determine what it was. Further investigations have eliminated the possibility of an artifact or an abdominal muscle, so researchers were left with the only possible explanation: the mare was pregnant.
Indeed, the 48-million-year-old fossil is the only one to have a uterus, providing scientists with additional study material. The death cause of the mare has not been yet discovered, but researchers think it was the childbirth because the fetus was near the term, but the position was wrong.
Paleontologists at the research institute have concluded that the mare fossil has been well-preserved due to the climate conditions at the Grube Messel pit. The bone fragments were covered with a special mixture of bacteria and iron in the water, which has petrified the fossil and maintained it intact.
The study was published last Thursday in the journal PLOS One.
Image source: www.funlol.com