No high Tibetan Plateau until the Neogene

Tao Su, Alexander Farnsworth, Robert A. Spicer, J Huang, F-X Wu, J Lui, Shufeng Li, Y-W Xing, Y-J Huang, W-Y-D Deng, H Tang, C-L Xu, F Zhao, G Srivastava, Paul Valdes, T Deng, Z-K Zhou

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Abstract

The Late Paleogene surface height and paleoenvironment for the core area of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) remain critically unresolved. Here, we report the discovery of the youngest well-preserved fossil palm leaves from Tibet. They were recovered from the Late Paleogene (Chattian), ca. 25.5 ± 0.5 million years, paleolake sediments within the Lunpola Basin (32.033°N, 89.767°E), central QTP at a present elevation of 4655 m. The anatomy of palms renders them intrinsically susceptible to freezing, imposing upper bounds on their latitudinal and altitudinal distribution. Combined with model-determined paleoterrestrial lapse rates, this shows that a high plateau cannot have existed in the core of Tibet in the Paleogene. Instead, a deep paleovalley, whose floor was <2.3 km above mean sea level bounded by (>4 km) high mountain systems, formed a topographically highly varied landscape. This finding challenges prevailing views on tectonic processes, monsoon dynamics, and the evolution of Asian biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaav2189
Number of pages8
JournalScience Advances
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2019

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    Su, T., Farnsworth, A., Spicer, R. A., Huang, J., Wu, F-X., Lui, J., Li, S., Xing, Y-W., Huang, Y-J., Deng, W-Y-D., Tang, H., Xu, C-L., Zhao, F., Srivastava, G., Valdes, P., Deng, T., & Zhou, Z-K. (2019). No high Tibetan Plateau until the Neogene. Science Advances, 5(3), [eaav2189]. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aav2189