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Russian scientists unearth preserved remains of woolly rhino

The Hill logo The Hill 12/31/2020 John Bowden
a person wearing a blue shirt: Russian scientists unearth preserved remains of woolly rhino © Getty Images Russian scientists unearth preserved remains of woolly rhino

Russian scientists discovered the well-preserved remains of a woolly rhinoceros earlier this year, a Pleistocene-era mammal that is believed to have gone extinct more than 14,000 years ago, the researchers announced Wednesday.

Scientists told local Russian news outlet Yakutia 24 that the carcass was discovered in August on the bank of the Tirekhtyakh River in the northern part of the Yakutia region as a result of melting permafrost, an effect of climate change.

"The carcass fell out as a result of the breakage of the coast during the thawing of the permafrost. The preservation is good, better than that of the previously found specimens - the Kolyma rhinoceros and Sasha. Perhaps it belongs to the late Pleistocene," said Valery Plotnikov, a large fauna researcher at a local university.

The carcass's preservation in the permafrost was so complete, Plotnikov said, that scientists had been able to discern important information about the animal, such as confirmation that it used its signature horn for rooting around for food.

"The back of the carcass has soft tissue, possibly the genitals and part of the intestines. This makes it possible to study excrement, which will allow us to reconstruct the paleoenvironment of that period. A small nasal horn has also been preserved - this is rare, since it decomposes rather quickly. The research revealed traces of wear on it, that is, the rhinoceros was actively using it for food," he told the news station.

Plotnikov added that the animal likely died as a result of falling into a bog or other natural feature from which it could not escape, as it did not look to have starved. The three- to four-year-old animal's carcass will be sent to Yakutsk next month for further study, he said, after which it will be sent to Stockholm as part of a collaborative study effort with Swedish scientists.


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