Old is new again in the world of paleontology thanks to cold areas like Tibet, the Antarctic and the Arctic.
Researchers from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) recently discovered the fossil of a 3.6 million year old woolly mammoth rhino in Tibet's Zanda Basin. The fossil of the creature's complete skull and lower jaw is proof that there are untapped resources out there when it comes to discovering ancient creatures like this one.
Cold places, such as Tibet, 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, stated Dr. Xiaoming Wang, researcher at NHM and Qiang Li of Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to the research, woolly mammoths like this one were able to adapt to the cold climate because of their long hair, large body size and snow-sweeping structures such as its front horn. This particular woolly mammoth existed at least one million years before the Ice Age (Pleistocene) and it's believed many of the creatures from that period evolved from this one.
Along with this creature, which has been given the new classification Coelodonta thibetana, the researchers found fossils of ancient horses, antelopes, snow leopards, badgers and other kinds of mammals.
This new creature will be able to tell researchers more about where the classical Pleistocene woolly mammoth type creatures got a lot of their features from. This creature's snow sweeping horn wasn't necessary during his time; but was later used by his descendants.
The extinction of Ice Age giants such as woolly mammoths and rhinos, giant sloths, and saber-tooth cats has been widely studied, but much less is known about where these giants came from, Dr. Wang said in a statement. The Tibetan Plateau may have been another cradle of the Ice Age giants.
This woolly mammoth rhino was probably a little different from his descendants in that he wasn't nearly as woolly. The lack of hair remnants in the fossil showed the researchers that Coelodonta thibetana may have had less hair.
The findings of the study have been compiled into a paper and published in a recent issue of Science.