Equidae


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Equidae

[′ēk·wə‚dē]
(vertebrate zoology)
A family of perissodactyl mammals in the superfamily Equoidea, including the horses, zebras, and donkeys.

Equidae

 

a family of the order Perissodactyla. It comprises three subfamilies with approximately 20 genera, including extinct genera (such as Hyracotherium, Anchitherium, Mesohippus, Miohippus, Merychippus, Hipparion, and Pliohippus) and the only surviving genus, Equus.

The family comprises animals varying greatly in appearance and structure. With the exception of the most ancient (Eocene) representatives, equids are well-proportioned animals, with long legs and a very developed large third toe encased in a hoof; the second and fourth toes are greatly reduced (they are absent in modern equids). The facial part of the skull is greatly elongated. The cheek teeth are hypsodont and grow as they wear down. The equids evolved so as to adapt to fast running in open spaces and eating coarse vegetation. During the evolutionary process, the legs lengthened, the joints straightened, the middle toe enlarged, and the side toes gradually reduced. The face lengthened as the molars grew larger, and the premolars acquired a molar-like appearance and a complex folded chewing surface.

The history of the family Equidae has been well studied in North America, where they lived from the early Eocene epoch to the late Pliocene epoch. In the eastern hemisphere, in different geological periods there existed representatives of the family that were not linked to one another evolutionarily. The ancestors of the modern equids came to the eastern hemisphere from North America in the late Pliocene epoch, and in different parts of their vast area of distribution gave rise to different groups of modern equids. The history of the family’s development studied in detail by V. O. Kovalevskii is a classic example of research into the specific evolutionary paths of a large group of animals.

REFERENCES

Kovalevskii, V. O. Sobranie nauchnykh trudov, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Osnovy paleontologii: Mlekopitaiushchie. Moscow, 1962.
Simpson, G. G. Horses. New York, 1951.

B. A. TROFIMOV

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