Prehistoric rhino reveals secrets

Prehistoric rhino

The woolly rhino was once one of the most abundant large mammals living in Eurasia, but only a handful of preserved carcasses have been found.

Now an analysis of a female woolly rhino found preserved in Siberia reveals that the animal was a herbivore that grazed mainly on cereals, and was similar in size to today’s Javan rhino.

However, it was slow to reproduce, had a short stubby tail and ears, and was likely driven to extinction in part due to its inability to wade through deeper blankets of snow, which became more common as the climate changed, say scientists.

Details of the discovery are published in the journal Biology Bulletin.

Woolly rhino (Coelodonta antiquitatis) remains have been found spanning Eurasia, from the UK in the west to Chukotka and Kamchatka in the Russian far east.

But few whole skeletons have been discovered and only four whole carcasses, including the animal’s soft tissues as well as the bones, have survived.

These remains allowed scientists to determine that the woolly rhino had a long body and short legs, a flattened front horn and thick skin covered by a coat of thick fur.

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