(Pliocene horse/More horse - refer to main text).
Named By: Othniel Charles Marsh - 1874.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Equidae.
Species: P. castilli, P. fossulatus, P. mirabilis, P. nobilis, P. pernix, P. tantalus, P. tehonensis. *Note - Other species may be missing.
Size: 1.8 meters tall at the shoulder.
Known locations: Canada and USA.
Time period: Messinian Miocene.
Fossil representation: Multiple specimens.
the on-going evolution of horses Pliohippus
represents the next stage
after forms like Merychippus.
The most noted feature of Pliohippus
that it has even more developed hoof feet supported by the middle toe,
with the two side toes being reduced so much that in life they would
have been barely visible if at all. It is still under debate however
as to how close Pliohippus was to modern horses
that come under the
Equus genus. Pliohippus was
but first may have
given rise to other forms such as Astrohippus or Dinohippus
turn are thought to be more closely related to modern forms due to
their even greater similarity.
The key features that differentiate Pliohippus from modern forms are the presence of two pits in the skull that are in front of the eyes, a feature unknown in modern forms. Explanations for these pits have included space to accommodate larger face muscles to even resonating chambers that allowed Pliohippus to adjust the sounds of its calls. Despite these theories however, the function of these pits remains largely unknown.
Pliohippus is often credited with meaning ‘Pliocene horse’ because it was once thought to live during the Pliocene (the boundary between the Miocene and Pliocene has been re-established since Pliohippus was named), however the ‘Plio’ part actually translates as ‘more’. However in this frame of reference Pliohippus can still mean ‘more like a horse than other (earlier) prehistoric horses’.