Yang Wang is known for conducting complex research using highly sophisticated equipment. Yet the Florida State University geochemist also has spent days hiking through the remote outback of Tibet and camping in the foothills of the Himalayas all in the name of scientific discovery.
Because of that unique mix of skills, Wang was chosen to take part in a team of researchers that uncovered the oldest prehistoric woolly rhino ever found. A paper describing the team's discovery was just published in Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/), a prestigious journal established in 1880 by Thomas Edison. (An abstract of the paper is available here (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6047/1285.abstract?sid=05f2e761-7871-408e-af12-ae87d43f6504); access to the full article requires a paid subscription.)
Wang and an international group of paleontologists set out in 2007 to explore one of the most isolated places on earth: the Zanda (ZAH-dah) Basin in Tibet, located at the feet of the Himalaya Mountains. The words majestic, wild and awesome all apply, yet fail to capture the landscape's natural wonder.
What drew the researchers to the basin wasn't its raw beauty, however. They came to explore its buried treasures. The largely untouched Zanda Basin is a fossil hunter's paradise, and the team was determined to make scientific breakthroughs.
They did just that, finding the complete skull and lower jaw of a previously unknown and long-extinct animal. They christened it the Tibetan woolly rhino (Coelodonta thibetana).
"This is the oldest, most primitive woolly rhino every found," Wang said of the team's discovery.
The ancient beast stood perhaps 6 feet tall and 12 to 14 feet long. It bore two great horns. One grew from the tip of its nose and was about 3 feet lon
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Florida State University