Temas Especiales

28 de Nov de 2020

Nacional

Horse’s fossil teeth found in canal dig

PANAMA. Archaeologists of the Smithsonian Institute found fossils of a horse during the widening of the canal excavations works.

PANAMA. Archaeologists of the Smithsonian Institute found fossils of a horse during the widening of the canal excavations works.

Aldo Rincon, paleontology intern at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, unearthed a set of fossil teeth which was identified by Bruce J. MacFadden, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida in Gainesville, as Anchitherium clarencei, a three-toed browsing horse.

By far the most complete fossil of a horse collected at the site in excavations spanning the last century, characteristics such as the shape of the teeth confirm the identity of two earlier finds and indicate that this horse was primarily a forest-dwelling browser living in the area between 15 and 18 million years ago.

This evidence supports MacFadden's earlier proposal that the habitat was probably a mosaic of relatively dense forest and open woodlands.

The presence of this browsing horse in Panama significantly extends the southern tip of its range from previous finds from roughly the same period in Florida, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Expanding the Panama Canal waterway to make way for super sized ships is a dream come true for geologists and paleontologists, according to Carlos Jaramillo, senior scientist at the institute In collaboration with the University of Florida and the Panama Canal Authority, he has organized a team of researchers and students who move in following dynamite blasts to map and collect exposed fossils, which are often revealed.

"This is one of very few places in the tropics where we have access to fresh outcrops before they are washed away by torrential rains or overgrown by vegetation, and we expect the fossils that we have been salvaging to resolve some major scientific mysteries," said Jaramillo.

"What geological forces combined to create the Panama land bridge? Was the flora and fauna in Panama before the land bridge closed similar to that in North America, or did it include other elements?"

Anchitherium was a browsing (leaf eating) horse that originated in the early Miocene of North America and subsequently dispersed to Europe and Asia, where it gave rise to the larger bodied genus Sinohippus.

It was around 60 centimeters high at the shoulder, and probably represented a side-branch of horse evolution that left no modern descendants.