Fossil Friday – Miocene horses

Hello! I’m Brittney Stoneburg, the Marketing and Events Specialist for the Western Science Center. While my job mostly entails communications and outreach at the museum, I’ve spent the last year dipping my toes into research!


A Scaphohippus dentary

For my first research project, I’ve been working on fossils collected by the Western Science Center from our field site in San Bernardino National Forest. This means I’m up to my neck in horse teeth right now! I’ve been focusing on the small, three toed horses that roamed Southern California during the early to middle Miocene, approximately 18 million years ago.


A Scaphohippus upper molar

Multiple species of horse lived in this area, including Scaphohippus, whose teeth are picture above. While our collection from this site has only a few post-cranial bits, we can make pretty solid identifications just from the teeth. Horse teeth like these have numerous features that make it possible to identify them down to the species level. Knowing what horses lived in this area during the Miocene can tell us a lot not only about the horses themselves, but about the environment they lived in!

I’ll be presenting on my research at the North American Paleontological Conference in June, so if you’ll be there, feel free to ask me about all of these horses!

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