|Lesmesodon, a weasel-sized hyenadont.|
A new species from Early Eocene France was
described this year
When we think of vertebrate fossils, the first thing that pops to mind is almost certainly going to be a skeleton of some kind, or perhaps just part of one. But there are also such things as ichnofossils - fossilised remains of how an animal affected its environment that no longer include any physical part of the animal itself. Perhaps the most obvious of these are fossil trackways - footprints of long-gone animals preserved in mud or other soft material that has since turned to stone. A study published this year examined the tracks left by two species of fossil horse. One of them, a one-toed close relative of the living species inhabiting southern Canada during the Ice Ages, turned out to have been galloping at around 34 kph (21 mph), which is quite fast for its small size (perhaps it was running from something). More significantly, however, the three-toed Miocene horse Scaphohippus was using a relatively unusual gait called the "rack" typically only seen in specialised domestic breeds today.