North American Species

  • Horse & Saber-toothed Cat Skulls
  • Horse Skull
  • Horse Skull
  • Horse Skull
  • Saber-toothed Cat Skull Fragment
  • Saber-toothed Cat Skull Fragment

Horses evolved in North America and traveled south during the interchange, later becoming extinct in the Americas before Spaniards reintroduced the horse we know today. Saber-toothed Cats also migrated south, where they thrived on new prey options.


North American Species by Bruce MacFadden

So horses are generally thought by the public to have been introduced to North America about 500 years ago by the Spaniards, but as paleontologists we know that horses actually evolved in North America over the past 50 million years. They migrated outside of North America into the Old World, they also migrated into South America after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama a couple of million years ago.

In addition, the Saber-toothed Cat skull that you see here represents an animal that, along with horses, also migrated into South America across the Isthmus of Panama during what’s called the Great American Biotic Interchange.

Bruce MacFadden
Curator, Vertebrate Paleontology
Distinguished Professor
Florida Museum of Natural History


Horse Skull (Equis insulatus)
From Tarija, Bolivia
Lived ~750  thousand years ago

Saber-toothed Cat Skull Fragment (Smilodon populator)
From Tarija, Bolivia
Lived ~750  thousand years ago

Exhibit Area

Objects Tell Stories


Great American Interchange

North American SpeciesRadha Krueger