Ancient horses ate squishy fruit, not grass
Early ancestors of the modern horse likely ate fruit that did not require sharp molars to grind down, a study of horse teeth fossils dating back 55 million years has shown, scientists said Thursday.
As land conditions evolved over time, horses’ diets became more mixed and their teeth became tougher to be able to chew and digest grasses that may have had gritty dust or soil mixed in, said the study in the journal Science.
The evolution of bigger, sharper molars closely follows historical changes in climate, but with a large enough gap between environmental shifts and dental changes to suggest that plenty of horses died off along the way, the research said.
“We found that evolutionary changes in tooth anatomy lag behind the dietary changes by a million years or more,” said co-author Matthew Mihlbachler of the New York Institute of Technology.