Fossils Of New Rhino Species That Was ‘Taller Than Giraffe’ Found In China
Researchers in northwest China have discovered a new species of ancient giant rhino believed to be taller than a giraffe.
The giant rhino, also known as Paraceratherium, is considered to be the largest land mammal to have ever walked the Earth. Weighing up to 21 tonnes, it was mainly found in Asia, especially China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan 26.5 million years ago.
Following the discovery of fossils in 2015, found by a Chinese and US team led by Deng Tao from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the new species has finally been given a name: Paraceratherium linxiaense.
According to a news release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the new species will offer insight into the dispersal of giant rhinos across Asia.
‘Usually fossils come in pieces, but this one is complete, with a very complete skull and a very complete jaw, which is rare. The skull was more than [three feet] long, and it was very rare for a skull of that size to be preserved… we also found the cervical spine,’ Deng told CNN.
Unlike other rhinos, this particular species was hornless. Its head was capable of reaching 23ft in the air to graze treetops, significantly taller than giraffes at their biggest.
Scientists believe the species was closely related to giant rhinos once found in Pakistan, suggesting they’d travelled across Central Asia and further, indicating the environmental conditions of the Tibetan Plateau at the time.
‘Tropical conditions allowed the giant rhino to return northward to Central Asia, implying that the Tibetan region was still not uplifted as a high-elevation plateau,’ Deng said.
‘In addition, animal migration is linked to climate change. So 31 million years ago, when the Mongolian plateau dried up, they moved south… then the weather got wet and they went back to the north. Therefore, this discovery is of great significance to the study of the whole plateau uplift process, climate and environment,’ he added.
The study was published in the Communications Biology journal.
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