LOS ANGELES, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- A woolly rhino fossil found in Tibet gives important clues to the evolution of Ice Age giants such as mammoths, rhinos and saber-tooth cats, scientists say.
Researchers at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County say they discovery suggests some giant mammals first evolved in the area that is present-day Tibet long before the beginning of the Ice Age.
Although the Ice Ages' giant creatures have long been studied, little was known of where they came from or how they acquired their adaptations for living in a cold environment.
"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," the Natural History Museum's Xiaoming Wang said in a museum release.
The new rhino is 3.6 million years old, much older and more primitive than its Ice Age descendants in the mammoth steppes across much of Europe and Asia, researchers said.
It lived at a time when global climate was much warmer and the northern continents were free of the massive ice sheets seen in the later Ice Age, they said.
Researchers say they believe when the Ice Age eventually arrived around 2.6 million years ago, the already cold-adapted rhinos simply descended from the high mountains and began to expand throughout northern Asia and Europe.