About 25,000 years ago, humans began painting a curious creature on the walls of European caves. Among the rhinos, wild cattle, and other animals, they sketched a white horse with black spots. Although such horses are popular breeds today, scientists didn't think they existed before humans domesticated the species about 5000 years ago. Now, a new study of prehistoric horse DNA concludes that spotted horses did indeed roam ancient Europe, suggesting that early artists may have been reproducing what they saw rather than creating imaginary creatures.
Archeologists have found more than 100 painted caves depicting at least 4000 animals in Europe, nearly all of them concentrated in southern France and northern Spain. They include France's Chauvet Cave, dated to at least 32,000 years ago and featuring the earliest known cave art, as well as the roughly 15,000-year-old caves of Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain. Nearly a third of the animals in painted caves are horses; and nearly all of the horses are rendered in brown or black, similar to the bay or black colors of today's horses.
But a small number of caves, including 25,000-year-old Pech Merle in southern France, feature horses painted white with black spots. Some archaeologists have argued that this leopardlike pattern was fanciful and symbol laden rather than realistic. Indeed, in a 2009 analysis of DNA from the bones of nearly 90 ancient horses dated from about 12,000 to 1000 years ago, researchers found genetic evidence for bay and black coat colors but no sign of the spotted variety, suggesting that the spotted horse could have been the figment of some artist's imagination. Although researchers can only speculate on what prehistoric artists were trying to express, hypotheses range from shamanistic and ritualistic activities to attempts to capture the spirit of horses and other animals that ancient humans hunted.
But in a new paper published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the same team reports finding that spotted horses did indeed exist around the time that cave artists were doing their best work. The researchers, led by geneticists Arne Ludwig of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin and Michael Hofreiter of the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed DNA from an older sample of 31 prehistoric horses from Siberia as well as Eastern and Western Europe, ranging from about 20,000 to 2200 years ago. They found that 18 of the horses were bay, seven were black, but six had a genetic variant—called LP—that corresponds to leopardlike spotting in modern horses. Moreover, out of 10 Western European horses estimated to be about 14,000 years old, four had the LP genetic marker, suggesting that spotted horses were not uncommon during the heyday of cave painting.
If so, the team argues, prehistoric artists may have been drawing what they saw rather than creating imaginary creatures. Prehistoric horses came in at least "three coat color[s]," Ludwig says, "and exactly these three [colors] are also seen in cave paintings. Cave art is more realistic than often suggested."
As for why the spotted phenotype became more rare after 14,000 years ago, the team points out that some modern horse breeds with two copies of the LP gene suffer from night blindness, which would have made prehistoric horses more vulnerable to predators. The researchers speculate that the gene might have been beneficial during the ice age, when a white spotted coat could serve as camouflage in snowy conditions, but later became rare and disadvantageous until rediscovered by modern horse breeders.
Jean Clottes, France's premier cave art expert, agrees that cave artists may have painted horses as they saw them, although he argues that such realistic depictions of horses do not rule out possible symbolic meanings. "In [cave] art you find both naturalism and a departure from it," Clottes says. In the case of the Pech Merle spotted horse, for example, he points out that "the big dots were not only on top of the horses but all around them. This would probably mean that some special importance was attached to the dots rather than a simple wish to render them realistically."
Marsha Levine, an expert in prehistoric horses at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, also thinks that the symbolic aspects of cave painting cannot be shunted aside. "Horses have potent symbolic meanings in all the cultures where they are found, including ours."
*Correction: In an earlier version of this story, a photo caption identified spotted horses as coming from a cave in Spain. The cave is actually in France.
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My pet is a dog named Tipsy. Tipsy is an adorable brown dog that has a few black spots spread across his body and tail. Tipsy is a kelpie crossed with a border collie, and he has fluffy velvety ears. Even though Tipsy has a very strong body frame, he has a very gentle face and is always a friendly dog to those whom he knows. If a stranger approaches out house, however, Tipsy can get very aggressive. He always barks loudly to attract our attention to the approaching stranger.
Tipsy loves many things. Among these is to nuzzle his wet nose in my hands and in the hands on my parents and siblings. He craves attention most of the time because he is scared of being abandoned or ignored. I actually came across Tipsy while he was still a puppy. It appears his owner had abandoned him on the road. I found him wondering in our neighborhood. I informed my parents about the puppy. I wanted to keep him. They communicated with the local authorities so the authorities could allow us to adopt the pet.
Tipsy loves food, especially bones. Once we have fed him his regular food, we always give him a few bones on which to chew. Tipsy can actually spend whole afternoons chewing bones because he loves them so much. Whenever Tipsy is worried, he looks at us with desperate eyes that appear like he is sad. He does so while wagging his tail from one side to the other. Whenever we see him exhibiting these signs, we immediately prepare him a quick meal and some bones for him to eat.
Tipsy has also made it a habit to play with our cat, Toppy. Sometimes, Tipsy plays with and pours out the cat’s water, something that always leaves the cat giving him a vicious glare. Sometimes, the cat even meows as if to let Tipsy know that he is not very impressed with Tipsy for pouring out his water. Whenever, my dog plays with the cat’s water, I see him lifting his head as some of the cat’s water pours out from his tongue, like the way water drops from a waterfall.
Tipsy also likes the chipping sound made by the birds that reside on the trees in our compound. Whenever Tipsy hears these sounds, he raises his ears and points them towards the direction where the chirping sound is originating. One can always observe the way his eyes light up with excitement whenever the birds begin making their soothing noises.
My Pet descriptive essay writing tips:
Since this is a description essay, one is supposed to describe the unique characteristics of one’s favorite pet which in this case is a dog. Since most dogs have a name, it is prudent that one begins this description by providing the name of the dog followed by the species to which the dog belongs. Once this is done, one can begin describing the things that the dog likes and those that it does not appreciate. For instance in this essay, the writer has described the way the dog loves food and what it does whenever it needs to eat some food.
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Filed under: Example Papers — Tags: descriptive essays, english essay, my pet essay — Joan Young @ 6:51 am