Over 200 fossils found over the past decade in India piece together a common ancestor of both horses and rhinoceros that lived millions of years ago.
Nowadays, the horse and rhinoceros are two very distinct animals seen at zoos, on farms and in nature. Millions of years ago however, a species existed that they were related to.
Dubbed the rhino-horse, the mammal is thought to have weighed around 45 to 75 pounds. A new study suggests it is a ‘cousin’ to the group that includes those two animals, along with the tapir and hippopotamus.
All four present-day mammals are part of the same biological group called perissodactyls.
In the past ten years, over 200 bones of the creature have been found in an open-pit coal mine in India.
By examining the fossils, which include teeth and foot bones, scientists have a clearer picture of the beast and what similar characteristics it has to its modern counterparts.
Not only does the animal give scientists a glimpse at evolution, it also provides information on continental drift over the millennia.
The rhino-horse is believed to have roamed the earth approximately 54.5 million years ago.
By that time, India is believed to have already broken away from Madagascar and was floating towards Asia. While the movement of any area of land is a point of contention amongst geologists, it's theorized the rhino-horse has an Afro-Arabian origin.
One controversial theory suggests a land bridge between the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula may have led them to cross into India where they evolved.
Paleontologists will excavate other mines in hopes of discovering more fossils, and therefore more clues about this evolutionary time period which saw the rise of mammals.