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The extant diversity of horses (family Equidae) represents a small fraction of that occurring over their evolutionary history. One such lost lineage is the subgenus Sussemionus, which is thought to have become extinct during the Middle Pleistocene. However, recent molecular studies and morphological analysis have revealed that one of their representatives, E. ovodovi, did exist in Siberia during the Late Pleistocene. Fossil materials of E. ovodovi have thus far only been found in Russia. In this study, we extracted DNA from three equid fossil specimens excavated from northeastern China dated at 12,770-12,596, 29,525-28,887 and 40,201-38,848 cal. yBP, respectively, and retrieved three near-complete mitochondrial genomes from the specimens. Phylogenetic analyses cluster the Chinese haplotypes together with previously published Russian E. ovodovi, strongly supporting the assignment of these samples to this taxon. The molecular identification of E. ovodovi in northeastern China extends the known geographical range of this fossil species by several thousand kilometers to the east. The estimated coalescence time of all E. ovodovi haplotypes is approximately 199 Kya, with the Chinese haplotypes coalescing approximately 130 Kya. With a radiocarbon age of 12,770-12,596 cal. yBP, the youngest sample in this study represents the first E. ovodovi sample dating to the terminal Pleistocene, moving the extinction date of this species forwards considerably compared to previously documented fossils. Overall, comparison of our three mitochondrial genomes with the two published ones suggests a genetic diversity similar to several extant species of the genus Equus.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: PloS one
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