Woolly rhino adapted to snow
8th September 2011
The fossil of a rhino has been found in Tibet and is believed to be 3.6 million years old. It is the oldest specimen of its kind yet found and could hold the key to one evolutionary theory.
It lived in the foothills of the Himalayas and had a special horn for scooping away the snow so it could get at vegetation to eat.
It existed up in the mountain before the last ice age but when the temperature changed the animal was ideally suited to survive the new conditions and one theory is that it may indicate how other animals evolved and adapted to deal with the changing conditions.
“When this rhino existed, the global climate was much warmer and the northern continents were free of the massive ice sheets seen in the later ice ages,” said one of the scientists involved in the project.
“Then, about a million years later, when the ice age did hit the world, these Tibetan woolly rhinos were basically pre-adapted to the ice age environment because they had this ability to sweep snow. They just happily came down from the high altitude areas and expanded to the rest of Eurasia.”
Evolution has made them ideally suited to the changing conditions.
The discovery is written up on the web site of Science.
The rhino fossil was discovered in the Zanda Basin and was found along with extinct horse, antelope, snow leopard, badger and other mammals.
For the spirit of the mountains