Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

High Tibet was cradle of evolution for cold-adapted mammals

Date:
June 10, 2014
Source:
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Summary:
A new study identifies a newly discovered 3- to 5- million-year-old Tibetan fox from the Himalayan Mountains, Vulpes qiuzhudingi, as the likely ancestor of the living Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), lending support to the idea that the evolution of present-day animals in the Arctic region is intimately connected to ancestors that first became adapted for life in cold regions in the high altitude environments of the Tibetan Plateau.

This is an artist's reconstruction of the Zanda fauna from the Pliocene about 5-2.5 million years ago.
Credit: Artist Julie Selan; Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

For the last 2.5 million years, our planet has experienced cold and warm, millennia-long cycles that collectively have become known as the Ice Age. During cold periods, continental-scale ice sheets blanketed large tracts of the northern hemisphere. As the climate warmed up, these colossal glaciers receded, leaving Yosemite-like valleys and other majestic geologic features behind. The advance and retreat of the ice sheets also had a profound influence in the evolution and geographic distribution of many animals, including those that live today in the Arctic regions.

Related Articles


A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences identifies a newly discovered 3- to 5-million-year-old Tibetan fox from the Himalayan Mountains, Vulpes qiuzhudingi, as the likely ancestor of the living Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), lending support to the idea that the evolution of present-day animals of the Arctic region is intimately connected to ancestors that first became adapted for life in cold regions in the high altitude environments of the Tibetan Plateau.

The paper's lead author is Xiaoming Wang, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM). Co-authors are Zhijie Jack Tseng (University of Southern California), Qiang Li (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Gary T. Takeuchi (Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits), and Guangpu Xie (Gansu Provincial Museum). These writers, on a team with other geologists and paleontologists and led by Wang, uncovered the fossil specimens in the Zanda Basin in southern Tibet in 2010.

In addition to the arctic fox, the team also uncovered extinct species of a wooly rhino, three-toed horse, Tibetan bharal (also known as blue sheep), chiru (Tibetan antelope), snow leopard, badger, as well as 23 other mammals.

The origin of the cold-adapted Pleistocene megafauna has usually been sought either in the arctic tundra or in the cool steppes elsewhere. But the team's new fossil assemblage boosts an alternative scenario, which the authors call the "out of Tibet" hypothesis. It argues that some of the Ice Age megafauna (which in North America include the woolly mammoth, saber-toothed cat, giant sloths, and others) used ancient Tibet as a "training ground" for developing adaptations that allowed them to cope with the severe climatic conditions. These Tibetan ancestors were thus pre-adapted to cold climates during the Ice Age (2.6-.01 million years ago).

Tibet, according to Wang, is a rich but grueling location for paleontological fieldwork. Fifteen summer seasons, and a good deal of luck, have honed his team's success. The expeditions involve a one-week journey to Lhasa, then a four-day drive into the remote "layer cake" sediments of the Zanda Basin -- a drive made in old model Land Cruisers known to get stuck in streams.

At more than 14,000-foot elevation, it's difficult to breathe, water freezes overnight in camps, and the team members disband every morning to walk alone in search of fossils. Wang and his team have trained their eyes to search for ancient lake margins, where the megafauna they're interested in are often found. They alternate camp nights with nights in town, so they keep their strength up for a couple of weeks. "There are a lot of challenges," Wang said, "but in paleontological terms, it is a relatively unexplored environment. Our efforts are rewriting a significant chapter of our planet's recent geological history."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. "High Tibet was cradle of evolution for cold-adapted mammals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140610205301.htm>.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. (2014, June 10). High Tibet was cradle of evolution for cold-adapted mammals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140610205301.htm
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. "High Tibet was cradle of evolution for cold-adapted mammals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140610205301.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) Media is calling it an "underwater Pompeii." Researchers have found ruins off the coast of Delos. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

AFP (Nov. 22, 2014) Faces in an area of mosaics is the latest find by archaeologists at a recently discovered tomb dating back to fourth century BC and the time of Alexander the Great in Greece. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins