Horsies!


Laelaps explains the basic concepts of horse evolution. Now if only we could get the creationists to actually read that summary — they keep saying that the evolution of the horse has been disproven by the fossil record.

Comments

  1. Patrick Quigley says

    But this article is worse than one claiming that the horse didn’t evolve. This shows that scientists’ opinions evolved as evidence accumulated. These scientists should have had unyielding faith in the beliefs set down by previous generations of scientists. Such a lack of virtue will surely lead to the degradation of our society.

  2. says

    If only creationists would look at the evidence. But, they have all the evidence they need, it was written 2000 years ago by Jesus Christ himself… Your millions of year old fossils are old evidence!

  3. Loren Petrich says

    That’s all well and good, but does anyone have a similar presentation of the evolution of cows or sheep or deer or pigs or other artiodactyls?

    They cover the size range of past and present equines, and they have similar diet — and present-day ones are sometimes found in large numbers, or at least used to be. Instead of large herds of buffalo in the US Midwest, there are now large herds of domestic bovines.

    So one would expect good chances of fossilization for them, at least as good as for equines.

    But I have not been able to find much online about artiodactyl evolution, nothing compared to what I can find about equine evolution.

    And that applies also to other perissodactyls, like tapirs and rhinos and their ancestors and extinct relatives.

  4. says

    Loren; That’s a good point about the lack of similar articles about artiodactyls and their evolution. I admit I don’t have much knowledge of that myself, and you have definitely inspired a potential future post on just that subject (thank you!).

    I think part of the reason why studies of artiodactyls are lacking is because they lacked the celebrity that horses received being associated with Huxley and Marsh. Their fossils were plentiful, seemed (at first) to show a clean orthogenic progression, and they were prominently mentioned in the media during a time when evolution was a hot topic. Indeed, if it were not for their rich record and Huxley’s visit, maybe things would be different. Such an explanation is no excuse, however, and you’re right in that we’d do well to look into the even-toed ungulates, too.

  5. Tom Buckner says

    Cows and sheep evolved from pterodactyls??!??!??! Well, that would explain the nerve-wracking screeches they make when they roost on the roof. Or that could just be the mushrooms.

  6. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Sorry to go off on a tangent, PZ, but here’s something weird:

    Participants in a group calling itself “Religion, Science and the Environment”, a non-governmental organisation based in Greece, has converged on a glacier in Greenland to express solidarity amongst the worlds religions.

    The purpose of the vigil at the Ilulissat Icefjord? To proclaim a unified religious acknowledgement of the threat of global warming and other environmental problems. How do they propose to tackle the problem? To “pray” to God (or whatever) for the health of the planet (or to spare us from harm such degradation may bring, or whatever). Apparently, only He (or whatever) can help.

    No kidding. Any thoughts?

  7. Ryan says

    I think the answer, Arsonium, is that if you get a lot of people together to pray over an issue, then those people can attribute anything that happens thereafter to their prayer.

    “Yay, global warming stopped! It was God’s will!”

    “Oh no, global warming got worse. It was God’s will!”

  8. MarkR says

    Creationists use horses to argue against evolution?!?!? So, what – did an “Intelligent Designer” create a creature that has to constantly put weight on all 4 of it’s incredibly fragile legs or it will develop a type of infection and die?

    Doesn’t seem like a very “intelligent” design to me.

  9. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Ryan answers, “if you get a lot of people together to pray over an issue, then those people can attribute anything that happens thereafter to their prayer.

    “Yay, global warming stopped! It was God’s will!”

    “Oh no, global warming got worse. It was God’s will!” ”

    I just wanted to mention something weird that I’d run across at NewScientist (which is inexplicably down at the moment).

    However, since you bring it up, these conclusions do seem to mirror the kind of foggy thinking that religion fosters.

    While the first conclusion is only consistent with the assumption that:

    1. God answers prayers.

    2. The majority of prayers were appeals to end global warming.

    The latter conclusion cannot be attributed to prayer (sensibly, anyway) unless:

    1. The majority of prayers were in FAVOR of global warming (which I suppose is entirely possible, considering how often we hear certain Abrahamic fundamentalists exhibit an obsession with death and destruction. I suppose its a good thing they haven’t invented the prayer-wheel yet, or we’d all be dancing on coals with pitchforks by now).

    2. God is punishing people because He doesn’t feel we pray ENOUGH. (Too bad the prayerless other [non-human] inhabitants get in the way of friendly fire).

    3. God doesn’t give a damn whether we pray or not and will work His Will regardless. Or perhaps He simply never listens. (Either way, we’re doomed by some entity who operates on motives completely irrelevant to humans, regarding them with complete indifference. Oddly enough, this is the one scenario, if one MUST posit the existence of God, most consistent with what we observe in nature. But who needs a deity that doesn’t care? A careless deity is equivalent to none at all).

    Which leads to:

    4. There actually isn’t any supernatural agency that prayer addresses in the first place. (Oops, sorry. This Giant Sore Thumb cannot be entertained because God’s Will was already presumed to be a given).

    Of course, God’s Will is often considered to be responsible for everything, which makes prayer HIS will, NOT ours, and so puts it deeper into delusional territory than advocates can possibly grok out. Kinda sorta begs the question, doesn’t it? How could religious thinking be considered remotely sensible or even useful?

    Political power-mongering culturing a kind of mass-schizophrenia is one possibility.

  10. David Marjanović says

    With artiodactyls, it’s a bit difficult.

    Firstly, there are just too many of them — they are way too successful — which means their tree doesn’t fit on a page.

    Secondly, their tree is not completely elucidated yet. The position of the ruminants within the artiodactyls is not quite clear; the genes (as currently interpreted) say thay are closest to the hippos + whales, the fossils (as currently interpreted) say they’re closest to the camels. Not all of the loads of fossils have been completely sorted out, too.

  11. David Marjanović says

    With artiodactyls, it’s a bit difficult.

    Firstly, there are just too many of them — they are way too successful — which means their tree doesn’t fit on a page.

    Secondly, their tree is not completely elucidated yet. The position of the ruminants within the artiodactyls is not quite clear; the genes (as currently interpreted) say thay are closest to the hippos + whales, the fossils (as currently interpreted) say they’re closest to the camels. Not all of the loads of fossils have been completely sorted out, too.

  12. horse lover says

    I am not so sure that it was an intelligent designer that bred horses to put so much weight on four fragile legs. I think, based on what I know about the last remaining wild horses, is that in the wild, they had much shorter legs than do our modern racing breeds. WE bred horses for even more speed and height, to be like athletes. My question is whether horses are the only animals to have figured out to run on tippy-toe (nails): do deer do that, too?

  13. says

    Steve – you shouldn’t refer to them as “baraminologists”, bro, you might give people the idea that there’s such a legit science as “baraminology”, or more generally, that they’re not completely fucking insane.

    Lepht