I’m feeling patriotic at the moment, and there is no better way to celebrate the United States of America than by taking a look at the amazing animals that evolved here in the long, long ago. This is a fact. So let’s meet these all-American all-stars!
Horses (well, equines in general) evolved in North America. I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS. Each time a ten year old girl wins a ribbon at her local Pony Club show, the terrorists lose and America wins. Horses have been in North America since the Eocene (with a brief absence of about 9,500 years after the Pleistocene extinction). They started out as little bitty things and then evolved to bigger things. Technically speaking, the genus equus (horses, asses, zebras, etc.) evolved during the Pliocene – so zebras are also American…as are donkeys. So horses are American heroes and we should acknowledge them as such
That’s right, camels are American. Like horses, they evolved in North America in the long, long ago times. Camels and llamas were more similar back then, and the two groups didn’t really branch off until the Pleistocene (they separated due to artistic differences but remained friends). Camels went across the Bering Land Bridge to Asia while llamas moved South America (although many camels and llamas remained in North America until the Pleistocene extinction). So the next time you see Lawrence of Arabia, remember that you are looking at Americans.
This one is not as much of a surprise. The wolf and the coyote both evolved in North America and spread throughout much of the world via aforementioned land bridge.
These strange rainforest dwellers are now only found in Central and South America, and in Southeast Asia. However, they too evolved in North America. Tapirs migrated south during the Great American Interchange (when North and South America joined at Panama) about 3 million years ago. Up until recently (10,000 years ago) tapirs were common in North America. I think we should bring them back because they are super cute.
Oddly enough, neither bison nor deer evolved in North America. They came over from Eurasia. Bison in general haven’t fared very well. They were hunted almost to extinction in both North America and Europe. The North American bison, however, has made somewhat of a comeback, while the wisent (European bison) has remained extremely endangered.