A Middle Eocene lowland humid subtropical “Shangri-La” ecosystem in central Tibet - MNHN - Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle Access content directly
Journal Articles Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Year : 2020

A Middle Eocene lowland humid subtropical “Shangri-La” ecosystem in central Tibet

Tao Su
Robert Spicer
Fei-Xiang Wu
  • Function : Author
Alexander Farnsworth
Jian Huang
  • Function : Author
Tao Deng
Lin Ding
  • Function : Author
Wei-Yu-Dong Deng
  • Function : Author
Yong-Jiang Huang
Alice Hughes
Lin-Bo Jia
Jian-Hua Jin
Shu-Feng Li
Shui-Qing Liang
  • Function : Author
Jia Liu
Xiao-Yan Liu
  • Function : Author
Sarah Sherlock
  • Function : Author
Teresa Spicer
  • Function : Author
Gaurav Srivastava
He Tang
  • Function : Author
Paul Valdes
  • Function : Author
Teng-Xiang Wang
Mike Widdowson
  • Function : Author
Meng-Xiao Wu
  • Function : Author
Yao-Wu Xing
Cong-Li Xu
  • Function : Author
Jian Yang
Cong Zhang
Shi-Tao Zhang
Xin-Wen Zhang
Fan Zhao
  • Function : Author
Zhe-Kun Zhou

Abstract

Tibet’s ancient topography and its role in climatic and biotic evolution remain speculative due to a paucity of quantitative surface-height measurements through time and space, and sparse fossil records. However, newly discovered fossils from a present elevation of ∼4,850 m in central Tibet improve substantially our knowledge of the ancient Tibetan environment. The 70 plant fossil taxa so far recovered include the first occurrences of several modern Asian lineages and represent a Middle Eocene (∼47 Mya) humid subtropical ecosystem. The fossils not only record the diverse composition of the ancient Tibetan biota, but also allow us to constrain the Middle Eocene land surface height in central Tibet to ∼1,500 ± 900 m, and quantify the prevailing thermal and hydrological regime. This “Shangri-La”–like ecosystem experienced monsoon seasonality with a mean annual temperature of ∼19 °C, and frosts were rare. It contained few Gondwanan taxa, yet was compositionally similar to contemporaneous floras in both North America and Europe. Our discovery quantifies a key part of Tibetan Paleogene topography and climate, and highlights the importance of Tibet in regard to the origin of modern Asian plant species and the evolution of global biodiversity.

Dates and versions

mnhn-03499347 , version 1 (21-12-2021)

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Tao Su, Robert Spicer, Fei-Xiang Wu, Alexander Farnsworth, Jian Huang, et al.. A Middle Eocene lowland humid subtropical “Shangri-La” ecosystem in central Tibet. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2020, 117 (52), pp.32989-32995. ⟨10.1073/pnas.2012647117⟩. ⟨mnhn-03499347⟩

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