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Still Waters

Why horses evolved a single toe

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With just one toe per foot, horses are something of an outlier in the animal kingdom, but it wasn't always that way. As hard as it may be to imagine, their earliest ancestors were typically about the size of a small dog, and sported three toes on their front legs, and four on the back.

Harvard scientists are shedding new light on what drove those changes, and in a new study show that the dual pressures of increasing body weight and shrinking side toes prompted early horses' middle toes to become dramatically stronger and better able to resist forces. 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170823090928.htm

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The reduction of the digits into a single strong one was also done, for different reasons, in the Alvarezsaurs. Where the single digit serves as a digging/scrapping tool. 

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