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A new genus of horse from Pleistocene North America

By Peter D. Heintzman, Grant D Zazula, Ross D.E. MacPhee, Eric Scott, James A. Cahill, Brianna K McHorse, Joshua D. Kapp, Mathias Stiller, Matthew J Wooller, Ludovic Orlando, John R Southon, Duane G Froese, Beth Shapiro

Posted 24 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/154963 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.29944)

The extinct New World stilt-legged, or NWSL, equids constitute a perplexing group of Pleistocene horses endemic to North America. Their slender distal limb bones resemble those of Asiatic asses, such as the Persian onager. Previous palaeogenetic studies, however, have suggested a closer relationship to caballine horses than to Asiatic asses. Here, we report complete mitochondrial and partial nuclear genomes from NWSL equids from across their geographic range. Although multiple NWSL equid species have been named, our palaeogenomic and morphometric analyses support the idea that there was only a single species of middle to late Pleistocene NWSL equid, and demonstrate that it falls outside of crown group Equus. We therefore propose a new genus, Haringtonhippus, for the sole species H. francisci. Our combined genomic and phenomic approach to resolving the systematics of extinct megafauna will allow for an improved understanding of the full extent of the terminal Pleistocene extinction event.

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