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Coat colour adaptation of post-glacial horses to increasing forest vegetation

Abstract

Wild horses unexpectedly survived terminal Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions until eventual European extirpation in the twentieth century. This survival is tied to either their occurrence in cryptic open habitats or their adaptation to forests. Our niche modelling inferred an increasing presence of horses in post-glacial forests, and our analysis of ancient DNA suggested significant selection for black phenotypes as indicating adaptation to forests.

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Acknowledgements

We thank C. Yurrita and L. Dalén for feedback on early versions of the manuscript. This project was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (LU852/7-4).

Author information

A.L. planned the project. A.L. and E.S.-C. designed the study. S.W. provided and processed the ancient genotypes. S.W. and E.S.-C. analysed the ancient DNA data set. C.G.-S. carried out the niche modelling analysis. E.S.-C. and A.L. wrote the manuscript. All authors gave final approval for the publication.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Arne Ludwig.

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Further reading

Fig. 1: Adaptation of wild horses to forests.
Fig. 2: Violin plots of selection coefficients.