Friday, 2 September 2011

New Fossils Hint At The Origins Of Ice Age Giants

The skull was in good condition is a little misshapen
Reconstruction of a woolly rhinoceras
A 3.5 million year old woolly rhinoceros skull (Coeleodonta thibetana)discovered in Tibet indicates that giant Ice Age mammals such as mammoths could have evolved long before the Ice Age, in snowy and mountainous regions. Palaeontologists from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the Chinese Academy of Science found the complete skull and lower jaw plus a tooth and neck vertebra in 2007. They found the date of 3.6 million years old very surprising.

They also found extinct species of three-toed horse, Tibetan bharal, known as blue sheep, and 25 other mammals species, including rodents and hunting hyena.The skull had special adaptations such as a flat, wide horn designed to sweep away snow while hunting for vegetation. The palaeontologists argue that giant Ice Age mammals originally evolved in snowy, mountainous regions and spread when the ice sheets moved south.

'The extinction of Ice Age giants such as woolly mammoths and rhinos, giant sloths and sabre toothed cats has been widely studied, but much less is known about where these giants came from' said Xiaoming Wang from the Natural History Museum of Los Angles. He continues 'cold places such as Tibet, the Arctic and Antarctic are where the most unexpected discoveries will be made in the future. These are the remaining frontiers that are still largely unexplored.'