Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments

, Volume 97, Issue 4, pp 807–832 | Cite as

Complete skeleton of Eurohippus messelensis (Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Equoidea) from the early middle Eocene of Grube Messel (Germany)

  • Jens Lorenz Franzen
  • Jörg Habersetzer
Original Paper


We describe the skeleton of a pregnant mare of the European equoid Eurohippus messelensis from the early middle Eocene of Grube Messel, Germany, 47.4–47.9 my of age (mammalian chronologic unit MP 11). This is the first detailed description of an individual skeleton of this species since Haupt (Abhandlungen der Hessischen Geologischen Landesanstalt, 6;1–159 Haupt 1925). Measurements prove that the skeleton of a pregnant mare fits exactly into the known variation of Eurohippus messelensis. Differences from the North American Eocene equid Arenahippus grangeri are only marginal. The size is similar, but the limb proportions indicate that cursoriality in A. grangeri had already achieved a higher level than in E. messelensis, which is 6-6.5 million years younger. We confirm the presence of rudimentary mc-I and mt-V in E. messelensis. The preservation of soft tissue is remarkable. We identified the distal end of the colon. SEM analyses display that it still contains plant material.


Equoidea Eocene Europe Skeleton Soft tissue Palaeoecology 



The authors thank Dr. Stephan Schaal, head of the Department of Palaeoanthropology and Messel Research at the Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut Frankfurt, for permitting us to study the specimen. We also thank the Senckenberg team for discovering and excavating the specimen. Michael Ackermann prepared the fossil and took samples for SEM analyses. Sven Tränkner took photos during and after the skeleton was prepared. Krister T. Smith kindly checked our manuscript for the language. PD Dr. Volker Wilde offered generously to use the SEM under his care. Mascha Siemund, Regina Posch, and Anika Vogel improved some of the illustrations. They were supported by Dr. Renate Rabenstein. Elvira Brahm gave many times access to the original specimen and helped in every respect. We thank these colleagues at the Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut Frankfurt very much. We are particularly grateful for critical remarks of two anonymous reviewers, whose suggestions helped to improve our paper considerably.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Naturhistorisches Museum BaselBaselSwitzerland

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