Pliohippus: horse ancestor from 10 million years ago

This post was researched by placement Caitlin Jolly, using Worcester City Museum exhibition files.

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The Pliohippus lived on open plains, grazing on hard grasses with its long teeth. It had one functional toe on each foot.

Pliohippus means “bigger horse” and the name is also meant to mean “horse of the Pliocene” (the Pliocene is the geological period between 2 and 5 million years ago) although it’s now thought that the Pliohippus lived in an earlier geological epoch.

The Pliohippus skeleton shares many similarities with modern horse skeletons – aside from deep indentations in the skull just below the eye sockets. Scientists have hypothesised that this was used to hold muscle or to produce noises which modern horses cannot.

Worcester City Museum looks after a geological collection of around 12,000 specimens across all geological periods. The museum first started collecting and displaying fossils in 1833.

 

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