Remains of a mammalian womb were found inside a 47-million-year-old fossil of a horse-like animal recently.
The well-preserved body of an early ancestor of the horse, known as Eurohippus messelensis, was discovered in Darmstadt, Germany, Daily Mail reports. The animal had apparently been pregnant when she died, and the fetus and some of the uterus tissue had somehow stayed intact.
“The specimen of Eurohippus messelensis we describe here is not only the oldest but also the best preserved fetus of a primitive equoid,” Dr. Jens Franzen of the Senckenberg Research Institute Frankfurt in Germany wrote in the journal "Public Library of Science One," according to Daily Mail. “It represents the earliest fossil record of the uterus of a placental mammal and corresponds perfectly with that of living horses."
Researchers have since been able to reconstruct the original position of the fetus, which was somewhat intact despite a crushed skull.
“The postcranial skeleton is virtually complete and largely articulated,” Franzen wrote. “This makes it possible to reconstruct the position of the fetus, which was normal and corresponds to late gestation of modern horses.”
It appears the pregnant animal had been drinking from a lake prior to her death.
Researchers noted that mammalian pregnancies have changed little over millions of years.
The fossil was discovered in 2000, but thorough examination of the fossil did not begin until 2012, Tech Times reports.