Ancient horses walked the Beringian bridge back and forth

In prehistoric times, there was land on the site of the modern Bering Strait – the so-called Beringian Land Bridge, connecting northeast Asia and northwestern North America. The bridge was part of a vast physical and geographical region called Beringia; now Beringia includes the territories surrounding the Bering Strait, the Chukchi and Bering seas. The Beringian Bridge was not here all the time, then it went under the water, then it reappeared, the last time it existed from 30 to 11 thousand years ago.

Naturally, animals walked along the bridge – mammoths, bison, wolves, etc. Most of them used the bridge only once. But the ancestors of modern domestic horses and Przewalski’s horses ran across the Bering Bridge more than once. A large team of researchers from the USA, France, Canada, Norway, among whom were employees of the Ural Federal University and the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, tried to determine the territory of horse settlement by analyzing DNA from ancient animal remains. In an article in Molecular Ecology it is said that even 1–0.8 million years ago, there were no horses from North America in Eurasia. But in the periods of 950-450 and 200-50 thousand years ago, horses were already settled in both directions.

The first wave of migration was predominantly from east to west, from North America to Eurasia. The second migration was dominated by movement from west to east, from Eurasia to North America. According to the authors of the work, horses returned to North America from Eurasia via the Bering Bridge at about the same time as bison, brown bears, and lions. Maybe they would have walked across this bridge again, but 11.7 thousand years ago, warming began, and the bridge began to sink under water.

Unlike the Eurasian horses, the North American population became extinct in the early Holocene (the Holocene began after the Pleistocene, that is, about 12 thousand years ago). The fact that horses later settled all over the earth is the merit of the man who domesticated them and whom they accompanied on all his wanderings.

Based on materials from the press service of the Ural Federal University.

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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