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How 11 Animals Have Changed Over Time

Whether it be the result of domestication or the work of nature, the animal kingdom is always developing. While some animals, although evolved, might seem similar to their ancestors, others have changed drastically to the extent that they might not even be recognizable as relatives.

Bright Side made a list of 11 animals that have grown from those that they now bear little or no resemblance to.

Domestic sheep

The mouflon is widely considered to be the ancestor of the domestic sheep. As a result of this evolution, present-day sheep are a lot tamer than their ancestors. While mouflons were usually brown, the colors of domestic sheep range from pure white to dark chocolate brown. The white color of sheep is the result of selective breeding since the white color is easily dyeable.

Domestic Pigs

Most domestic pig breeds descended from wild boars. Archaeological evidence indicates that pigs were domesticated from wild boars as early as 13,000–12,700 BC. They were and are used mostly for food, but early civilizations also used the pigs’ hides for shields, their bristles for brushes and their bones for tools and weapons. During the evolution resulting from domestication, they lost their coarse fur and tusks.

Cows

Aurochs, an extinct large wild cattle species that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa is considered by scientists to be the ancestor of domestic cattle. Experts have also suggested it as an ancestor to the modern European bison. The cattle that we mostly see today are either dairy cattle (those bred specifically for producing large quantities of milk) or beef cattle (those that are bred for meat production).

Giraffes

The closest known relative of giraffes is the now extinct Samotherium. The anatomy of a Samotherium shows a transition to a giraffe-like neck. Samotherium, which roamed around in the woodlands of Eurasia about 7 million years ago, had a neck that was about one meter long—about half the length of today’s giraffes. It is widely believed that the scarcity of food near the ground lead to the elongation of the neck so they were able to reach vegetation that was higher up.

Horses

The modern-day horse is supposed to have evolved from the now-extinct Eurohippus. Eurohippus were short creatures ranging from 30–60 cm at the shoulder and weighed just about 10 kg. The evolution occurred due to a change in the diet from foliage to grass and then because of the horse’s ancestors needed to develop greater speed to outrun predators.

Elephants

Moeritherium, a swamp-dwelling animal resembling a hippopotamus, is thought by scientists to be an ancient elephant relative. They were approximately the size of a tapir—29 to 42 inches (74 to 107 centimeters) tall at the shoulder.

Rabbits

The ancestors of rabbits looked nothing like them. Instead, Nuralagus, which is now universally regarded as being the ancestors of rabbits, were about 6 times heavier than the modern rabbit. They were also not as agile and could not jump. From the ancient Nuralagus, present-day rabbits have come a long way. And a rise in animal fancy has seen them evolve—as a result of cross-breeding— into unique and varied shapes and sizes.

Birds

Reverse genetic engineering and the study of fossil records both indicate that today’s birds are modern feathered dinosaurs, having evolved during the late Jurassic Period. Interestingly, the closest living relatives of birds are crocodiles.

Dolphins

Dolphins are related to the Indohyus, an extinct land-dwelling animal, from which they split approximately 48 million years ago. About the size of a raccoon or domestic cat, this omnivorous pig-like creature showed signs of adaptation to aquatic life, like having a thick and heavy outer coating, and bones that reduced buoyancy and enabled them to stay underwater.

Indohyus is also related to whales.

Sharks

Sharks are a mysterious creature and not much is known about them or how they evolved. However, in many scientific circles, the Helicoprion is considered to be their ancestor. The tooth whorl, however, is a contentious issue among scientists. While some believe it to be present in the lower jaw, others think that it was in the upper jaw. Whether the tooth whorl curled inward or outward is also a matter of debate.

Tawny owls

Tawny owls are an example of how climate change is forcing evolution. In the past, the grey-colored tawny owls outnumbered the brown colored ones. But as the climate warms up and the snow cover is thinning, the number of brown-colored tawny owls is increasing. It is probably nature’s way of evolving the owl to maintain camouflage in the changing terrain.

Were you surprised? We were. Do you think with time humans will also evolve? What human features do you think will change? Let us know in the comments.