Paleogenomics pp 325-351 | Cite as

An Ancient DNA Perspective on Horse Evolution

  • Ludovic OrlandoEmail author
Part of the Population Genomics book series (POGE)


With the development of fast transportation and cavalry, the horse represents the domestic animal that most influenced human history. Yet, the evolutionary history of the horse was not limited to the last 5,500 years since it was first domesticated. It is rooted within a 55 million-year-long time span, where a large number of lineages radiated and became extinct. Together with zebras, hemiones, and donkeys, the horse belongs to the genus Equus, the only remaining equine lineage living in the planet. Even though the survival of exploitable ancient DNA molecules is at best limited to the last million years, the sequencing of short mitochondrial and nuclear DNA fragments, as well as of complete genome sequence from archaeological and paleontological material, has illuminated our understanding of the evolutionary history of the horse family. Such work has not only revisited the evolutionary tempo of Equus and the phylogenetic relationships within and outside the genus but also revealed how past climates and human activities have shaped the genetic makeup of the horse species.


Ancient DNA Climate change Conservation Domestication Equus Horses Speciation 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of DenmarkCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Laboratoire AMIS, CNRS UMRUniversité de Toulouse, Université Paul Sabatier (UPS)ToulouseFrance

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