Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Ancient Horse Bones Tell Story of Tibetan Plateau


A newly discovered skeleton from an ancient three-toed horse not only provides information about ancient Tibetan wildlife, but it also sheds light on the habitat and elevation of Tibet nearly 5 million years ago.

This area of the world, called the Tibetan plateau, is the youngest and highest plateau on Earth, its average elevation exceeding 14,800 feet (4,500 meters), but researchers don't know exactly when this happened. Some researchers think that 5 million years ago, the plateau was once much higher than it is today, but others think it was much lower.

More data is needed to get a good grip on when the plateau rose up, and these researchers used the fossilized horse to shed some light on the debate.

"We have an extinct horse that apparently is adapted to grasslands, these open nonwooded areas," study researcher Xiaoming Wang, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told LiveScience. "Therefore, in turn, it might have some implications about the environment that it came from."

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