New discovery fills gap in evolution of horses

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A 4.4-million-year-old horse species has been discovered by two teams of scientists in Ethiopia, filling in a gap in the evolution of the modern animal.

Fossil rich deposits of the Eurygnathohippus woldegabrieli confirm it was the size of a small zebra and had three toes on its hooves.

A report into the discovery of the animal that is believed to have grazed on the grasslands and in the shrubby woods of the Afar region can be found in the November issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Scott Simpson, professor of anatomy at Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine and co-author of the research, said: "This horse is one piece of a very complex puzzle that has many, many pieces."

The discovery of several different bones belonging to the species over the course of a number of years has allowed the researchers to put together a more complete picture of the animal, which has longer legs than its forebears.

This would have enabled it to flee from lions, sabre-tooth cats and hunting hyenas.

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