The rhino calf, nicknamed “Sasha” after the hunter and businessman who found it, is the only complete young specimen of the extinct species ever found, according to scientists at the Yakutian Academy of Sciences in Russia, to whom the creature was donated for study.
The researchers hope to extract DNA from the specimen to determine its placement on the mammal family tree.
“The newly found [calf] is about 1.5 meters long [4.9 feet] and 0.8 meters high [2.6 feet],” said study researcher Albert Protopopov, head of the mammoth fauna studies department of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences in Russia, as translated by Olga Potapova, the collections curator and manager at the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota. By contrast, adults of this species could reach up to 15 feet (4.5 m) long and 6 feet (1.9 m) high at the shoulders, Protopopov said.
A rare find
Since the 18th century, the remains of only a few adult woolly rhinos have been discovered. Two complete bodies without hair were found in Staruni in what is now Ukraine, and a headless, frozen mummy was found in eastern Siberia, Potapova said. Woolly rhinos were depicted in late Paleolithic cave paintings in Western Europe, which add to scientists’ knowledge of what the animals looked like, she added.
But the remains of rhino calves are very rare and fragmented, and little to nothing is known about the young animals, Protopopov told Live Science, via Potapova. Woolly rhinos likely had very high infant mortality — “that’s why [Sasha] is a very lucky find for us,” he said.