Out of Tibet: Pliocene woolly rhino suggests high-plateau origin of ice age megaherbivores

Tao Deng, Xiaoming Wang, Mikael Fortelius, Qiang Li, Yang Wang, Zhijie J. Tseng, Gary T. Takeuchi, Joel E Saylor, Laura K. Säilä, Guangpu Xie

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Abstract

Ice Age megafauna have long been known to be associated with global cooling during the Pleistocene, and their adaptations to cold environments, such as large body size, long hair, and snow-sweeping structures, are best exemplified by the woolly mammoths and woolly rhinos. These traits were assumed to have evolved as a response to the ice sheet expansion. We report a new Pliocene mammal assemblage from a high-altitude basin in the western Himalayas, including a primitive woolly rhino. These new Tibetan fossils suggest that some megaherbivores first evolved in Tibet before the beginning of the Ice Age. The cold winters in high Tibet served as a habituation ground for the megaherbivores, which became preadapted for the Ice Age, successfully expanding to the Eurasian mammoth steppe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1288
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume333
Issue number6047
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2 2011
Externally publishedYes

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Cite this

Deng, T., Wang, X., Fortelius, M., Li, Q., Wang, Y., Tseng, Z. J., Takeuchi, G. T., Saylor, J. E., Säilä, L. K., & Xie, G. (2011). Out of Tibet: Pliocene woolly rhino suggests high-plateau origin of ice age megaherbivores. Science, 333(6047), 1285-1288. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1206594