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New Olonbulukia material and its related assemblage reveal an early radiation of stem Caprini along the north of the Tibetan Plateau

  • Shi-Qi Wang (a1) (a2), Qing Yang (a3), Ya Zhao (a3), Chun-Xiao Li (a1) (a4), Qin-Qin Shi (a1), Li-Yi Zong (a3) and Jie Ye (a1)...

Living Caprini are dominant bovids in the pan-Tibetan area that are strongly adapted to dry steppe and high-mountain meadow habitats. Some taxa with Holarctic distributions, e.g., Ovis Linnaeus, 1758, were thought to originate on the Tibetan Plateau and subsequently dispersed elsewhere, which was depicted as an ‘out of Tibet’ story. However, except for some information on a stem caprine assemblage from the Qaidam Basin, the early evolution of Caprini around the Tibetan Plateau is poorly known. Here, we report new material of Olonbulukia tsaidamensis Bohlin, 1937, which was a member of this stem caprine assemblage, from the Wuzhong region, northern China, confirming the similarity of the Wuzhong Fauna and ‘Qaidam Fauna.’ Based on a biometric study of horncores from the ‘Qaidam’ and Wuzhong faunas, we recognize six taxa from this stem caprine assemblage: O. tsaidamensis, O. sp., Qurliqnoria cheni Bohlin, 1937, Tossunnoria pseudibex Bohlin, 1937, ?Protoryx cf. P. enanus Köhler, 1987, and cf. Pachytragus sp. Among these taxa, Q. cheni and T. pseudibex are probably related to some extant Tibetan endemic species, e.g., the Tibetan antelope, Pantholops hodgsonii (Abel, 1826), and the Himalayan tahr, Hemitragus jemlahicus (Smith, 1826). Others might be ancestral to the Turolian caprine assemblages and even possibly gave rise to the extant Caprina. This work reveals an early radiation of stem caprines along the northern side of the rising Tibetan Plateau and indicates a mixed pattern of pan-Tibetan stem caprine evolution prior to their dispersal out of the Tibetan Plateau.

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