55mn-yr-old horse fossils indicate ‘you are what you eat’

March 4th, 2011 - 12:01 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 4 (ANI): Researchers who examined the teeth of 6,500 fossil horses representing 222 different populations of more than 70 extinct horse species have come to the conclusion that you really are what you eat.

Research by two anatomy professors at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM) of New York Institute of Technology analysed records spanning the past 55 million years and found a “critical” lag time between the evolution of horse teeth and dietary changes resulting from climate change.

Matthew Mihlbachler and Nikos Solounias found that while some of the extinct populations they examined had extremely abrasive diets, much of the time, it seemed horses had it surprisingly easy.

This suggests that “strong natural selection” for different types of teeth only happened occasionally during brief intervals in horse history.

Solounias and Mihlbachler investigated wear patterns on the molars of thousands of fossil horses.

“Lag time in the evolution of horse teeth in comparison to dietary changes is critical,” Mihlbachler explained.

“We found that evolutionary changes in tooth anatomy lag behind the dietary changes by a million years or more.”

“‘You are what you eat’: we hear this all the time, but now we know it is true. This study shows that the evolutionary path of horses as we know them today was affected by the food available to their prehistoric ancestors,” said Thomas Scandalis, Dean of NYCOM.

The study appears in March 4 issue of Science. (ANI)

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