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Renner, Susanne S. (2016): Available data point to a 4-km-high Tibetan Plateau by 40Ma, but 100 molecular-clock papers have linked supposed recent uplift to young node ages. In: Journal of Biogeography, Vol. 43, No. 8: pp. 1479-1487
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Abstract

The aims of this study were to synthesize data on the orogeny of the Tibetan Plateau (TP), with a focus on its elevation since the collision of the Eurasian and Indian plates, and to review the arguments in 100 phylogeny-cum-biogeography papers that have linked young inferred divergence times to recent TP uplift phases. I surveyed the literature on the geological history of the TP, focusing on different types of data used to infer its past height. I also tabulated the supposed TP history (and supporting references) in papers since 1998. Since the early 1990s, evidence from tectonics, isotopes, fossils and climate simulations increasingly indicates that the TP has been 4-5km high since the mid-Eocene. The data also indicate that the Indian summer monsoon, South-east Asian summer monsoon, and Central Asian winter monsoon arose at different times and are unrelated to Tibetan uplift. A growing number of studies by biologists, however, are linking node ages between 0.5 and 15Ma to specific (author-dependent) uplift phases of the TP citing geological papers that are outdated or miscited. Biogeography of the TP thus currently appears to be in a self-created bubble that encloses hundreds of authors and referees. Our understanding of the biogeography of Tibet requires up-to-date interpretation of its geological history and more fieldwork on local ecological habitat diversity, the plateau's history during the Pleistocene and the distribution of possible refugia.