In my mammalogy lab we went on a field trip to the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College. One wall of the museum showed skeletons of horses over the past 50 million years to display how horses evolved over time. 50 million years ago, horses were the size of dogs. They lived in forests and were omnivorous. As time passed, the environment started to change. The forests transformed into dry grasslands. With this change, the horses’ teeth began to evolve as they became grazers, who ate grass. The height of their tooth crowns got higher over time. Along with this change, they increased in body size. One of the most significant changes was the evolution of their toes. Horses eventually became unguligrade, walking on hooves to optimize running from predators. This happened by fusion of their bones and decreasing number of digits, until they only have one.
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