Researchers have discovered a 47-million-year-old horse fossils which carried an unborn foal inside. The recent discovery has given the scientists a new understanding on regarding the life and the way the prehistoric creatures developed.
The 47-million-year-old horse fossils belong to a species of prehistoric horse called Eurohippus messelensis and it was first unearthed in an old coal mine pit in Germany. The fossils were discovered in 2000 but it was only in 2012 that the detailed examination started.
The fossil site is called Messel Pit and is famous for preserving many mammals and other animals’ remains. The Messel Pit also has plants and birds dating back to the beginning of the Eocene Epoch, approximately 57 million years ago.
The 47-million-year-old horse fossils belonging to the Eurohippus messelensis species surprised the scientists because some of the reproductive processes were very similar to those of the modern day horse. The scientists said the similarities were surprising because of significant differences between the prehistoric horse and the modern one. The prehistoric horse was significantly smaller in size than the modern horse, similar to a medium –sized dog.
Another aspect of the prehistoric horse that surprised the scientists was that it had four toes on its front feet and three on its hind feet, unlike the modern horse which has hooves. The fetus inside the horse was revealed after the fossils were examined with special micro X-rays.
The X-rays revealed a broad ligament that connected the uterus to the backbone, in order to support a developing horse fetus. The scientists also discovered a crumpled uterine wall, just like the modern horse has.
One of the scientists who discovered the 47-million-year-old horse fossils said:
“It’s magnificently preserved. It turned out this was an almost complete and articulated skeleton with a fetus.”
The scientist added that:
“Almost all of the bones of the fetus are still articulated in their original position. Only the skull is crushed.”
The researchers said that they found the fossils in a volcanic area, which had a prehistoric body of water called Lake Messel. This would have been a water source for many animals in prehistoric times.