Light and shadows in the evolution of South European stenonoid horses

Open access

Abstract

The appearance of monodactyl equids in Eurasia and their dispersal towards South Europe is a significant event that marks the beginning of the Quaternary period. During the Pleistocene, horses were a common element in most European large mammal faunal assemblages, providing important palaeoecological clues, but their taxonomy, nomenclature and phylogeny, as well as their actual biochronological significance have been widely debated by scholars. The evolutionary history of horses here regarded as “stenonoid” (Equus livenzovensis, Equus stenonis, Equus ex gr. E. senezensis, Equus altidens, Equus hydruntinus, the large-sized horses Equus major and Equus suessenbornensis, sometimes referred to as the so-called “Equus bressanus-Equus suessenbornensis group”), is one of the most intriguing. This study, mainly focusing on the South European representatives of this group, aims to highlight and discuss the major debated issues, re-examining the taxonomy of some Early and early Middle Pleistocene horses. Alternative phylogenetic hypotheses will also be discussed with the aim of providing new clues on the chronology and palaeoecology of some key species/samples.

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