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British Plio-Pleistocene horses of the genus Equus

Owen, Frederick John; (2022) British Plio-Pleistocene horses of the genus Equus. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Horses were an important, and almost ubiquitous, component of many British Late Pliocene and Pleistocene ecosystems. Study of them has, however, been hampered by their highly convoluted taxonomy. This research describes horse fossils of the genus Equus from their first entry into the British mainland (over 2.6 million years ago) until approximately 12 thousand years ago. The earliest British Pliocene finds of stenonoid (‘zebra-like’) horses appear to pre-date first appearance records in many areas of Eurasia. Unlike several previously proposed biostratigraphical schemes for fossil European Equus, the earliest British material represents not one, but several species. Several species also continue to occur throughout the Early Pleistocene and early Middle Pleistocene, and this is likely to reflect an adaptive radiation of stenonoid horses subsequent to their entry into the Old World. Caballoid (‘true’ horses) first appear in Britain during the early Middle Pleistocene and, with the exception of very rare occurrences of the ‘European ass’, Equus hydruntinus, replace the stenonoid horses throughout the late Middle and Late Pleistocene. All of the British material studied is compared with samples from major mainland European localities, and this study confirms the presence of several species previously named using continental material. However, several significant differences between the British and European forms are also identified in this analysis, possibly due to the environmental conditions experienced by horses at the extreme north-west of their European distribution. The study also identified apparent gaps in the occurrence of horses in Britain. Some of these may be due to hiatuses in the stratigraphical sequence, but others appear to be due to factors such as very harsh environmental conditions during glacial stages and changes in sea level preventing their entry. Several possible reasons for the observed changes in size and form are presented. Additionally, forms that differ from the continental horses are described, including in the Late Pliocene deposits and around 200,000 years ago. The work concludes with suggestions for extending this research and for combining its findings with those from other fields.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: British Plio-Pleistocene horses of the genus Equus
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request. - Some third party copyright material has been removed from this e-thesis.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10150533
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