Well-preserved Ice Age woolly rhino found in Siberia

Well-preserved Ice Age woolly rhino found in Siberia

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Well-preserved Ice Age woolly rhino found in Siberia

The frozen carcass of an Ice Age juvenile woolly rhinoceros, with its hazel-coloured coat still intact, has been recovered from Siberia’s permafrost.

The remains, which are 80 percent intact and contain evidence of the last meal of the animal, were excavated in the Sakha Republic’s Abyysky district in August.

This photo taken in Aug. 2020 shows the carcass of a woolly rhino, taken in Yakutia. The well-preserved carcass with most of its internal organs still intact was released by permafrost in August

 

Local resident Alexei Savvin discovered them, including different internal organs and structures, including teeth, part of the intestines and a lump of fat.

Experts believe that the remains are most likely some 34,000 years old — although its exact age is yet to be confirmed by radiocarbon dating.

The find was made close to the site where the only-known baby woolly rhino specimen — dubbed Sasha — was excavated back in 2014.

Last year, the remains of two extinct cave lion cubs — ‘Boris’ and ‘Sparta’ — were found in the same district, close to a tributary of the remote Tirekhtyakh River.

‘According to preliminary estimates, the rhino is three or four years old and is a very young individual,’ said palaeontologist Albert Protopopov of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic.

A tooth of a juvenile woolly rhinoceros, the carcass of which was found in permafrost in Yakutia

‘Most likely, it drowned in the river. The carcass is very well preserved,’ he added.

‘Among other things, part of the internal organs are preserved, which in the future will make it possible to study in more detail how the species ate and lived.’

Researchers also uncovered a horn near to the remains of the young Pleistocene creature,  the sex of which has not yet been determined.

Sasha — the baby woolly rhino excavated from the same area six years ago — was dated back to around 34,000 years ago, but the new find could be between 20,000–50,000 year old, the researchers have said. It is thought to have died in the summer.

‘The Abyisky rhinoceros can already be called the only one of its kind in the world,’ Dr Protopopov said.

‘Earlier, not even the bone remains of individuals of this age were found, not to mention the preserved carcasses of animals.’ ‘As a rule, these were either cubs or adults.’

At present, the new specimen is being held near to where it was found, pending transport to the republic’s capital city of Yakutsk when weather permits. Frozen carcass of extinct woolly rhino unearthed in Siberia

Rhino’s soft tissue was still visible

Sasha — which was seven months old when it died — was found to have strawberry blond curls, a colouration that stands in contrast with the slate grey rhinos of Africa.

Furthermore, the size of baby Sasha — whose carcass sports the stubs of two horns — indicates that woolly rhinos were much larger than their modern counterparts.

Woolly rhinos once roamed across what is today Europe and Russia — and were even present in the south of England.

‘We have learned that woolly rhinoceroses were covered in very thick hair,’ said palaeontologist Valery Plotnikov, also of the Academy of Sciences.

‘Previously, we could judge this only from rock paintings discovered in France.’

‘Now, judging by the thick coat with the undercoat, we can conclude that the rhinoceroses were fully adapted to the cold climate very much from a young age.’

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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.

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