Museum scientists have discovered nearly 500 Parahippus jaws from the Thomas Farm Fossil site, allowing study of differences between juveniles and adults. It’s important to understand how an organism changes within its lifetime before defining how a species evolves over time.
Ancient Horse Jaws (Parahippus leonensis)
From Gilchrist Co., Florida
Lived ~18 million years ago
Fossil horses have been long used to study evolution. In Florida, we are very fortunate to have an 18-million-year-old sample right at the time when horses are transitioning from browsing, forest-dwelling animals to open country, grazing animals. The Thomas Farm Parahippus has thousands of specimens recording this transition. We are able to study these jaws to determine that the wear on their teeth is about 50 percent greater than those of browsing horses. That put evolutionary pressure on the species to increase the height of the crown so the animals can live longer and have more progeny.
Collection Manager, Vertebrate Paleontology*
Florida Museum of Natural History
On display Sept. 23, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018, Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum celebrated the Museum’s rich history. Each Museum collection was asked to contribute its most interesting items and share the stories that make them special. Though the physical exhibit is closed, this companion website remains online, providing an opportunity to experience the Florida Museum’s most treasured specimens.
Exhibit Area: Objects Tell Stories
Theme: Objects Reveal Evolution
Want to see more? Explore more than 300 breathtaking color photos of plants, animals, fossils and cultural heritage materials from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s collections in the award-winning book All Things Beautiful available from the University Press of Florida.
*This title was accurate at the time the exhibit was on display in 2017. Please visit the collection website to verify current staff and student information.