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Fetus of the European Eocene Equoid Eurohippus

Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

(An unusual fossil worth posting to the DML as well...)

Jens Lorenz Franzen, Christine Aurich & Jörg Habersetzer  (2015)
Description of a Well Preserved Fetus of the European Eocene Equoid
Eurohippus messelensis.
PLoS ONE 10(10): e0137985.

The early Middle Eocene locality of Grube Messel, near Darmstadt
(Germany), is famous for its complete vertebrate skeletons. The degree
of preservation of soft tissues, such as body silhouettes, internal
organs and gut contents, is frequently remarkable. The present
specimen was analyzed for remnants of the reproductive system. Classic
anatomy and osteology and high-resolution micro-x-ray were applied to
describe the fetus of the European Eocene equoid Eurohippus
messelensis. Scanning electronic microscopy (SEM) was used for
determination of soft tissue remnants. The fetus is the earliest and
best-preserved fossil specimen of its kind. The postcranial fetal
skeleton is almost complete and largely articulated, allowing the
conclusion that the pregnant mare was in late gestation. The apparent
intrauterine position of the fetus is normal for the phase of
pregnancy. Death of mare and fetus were probably not related to
problems associated with parturition. Soft tissue interpreted as the
uteroplacenta and a broad uterine ligament are preserved due to
bacterial activity and allow considerations on the evolutionary
development of the structures.