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Science File | IN BRIEF

Alaska Horses May Have Fallen to Climate Change

November 15, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Climate change, rather than hunting, may have triggered the extinction of Alaska's native horses about 12,500 years ago, researchers reported in the current issue of Nature.

R. Dale Guthrie of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks studied carbon-dated fossil bones from two species of extinct Alaskan horses. He discovered that bones from a horse dating back 12,500 years were about 12% shorter than those from another horse that lived nearly 15,000 years earlier.

A shift in vegetation, which would have diminished the horses' food supply, could account for the decrease in their size and eventual extinction, he said.

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