In the land of endless fossils, also known as North China, a new species of giant rhinoceros has been discovered in Gansu province that is among the largest land mammals to ever walk the Earth.
Belonging to an extinct genus called Paraceratherium, which means “close to the hornless beast,” the new species displays some different characteristics and carries a potential migratory pattern that may help explain the modern distribution of mammals.
The giant rhino is known to be one of the largest land mammals to ever exist. It has been found mainly in Asia, but its evolutionary relationships remain unclear.
Tao Deng and colleagues skeletal remains recovered from a new species nicknamed giant rhinoceros Paraceratherium linxiaensis, named for the Linxia Basin in northwest China, where it was found.
“The fossils were prepared [for study] by three professional technicians under [our] supervision from December 2016 to February 2017, ”Dr. Deng told GNN.. “When the perfect specimens appeared before our eyes, their enormous size and good integrity [gave us] a big surprise “.
Deng and his colleagues had been working in the Linxia Basin since the 1980s, but have only found giant rhino remains in isolated or fragmentary situations.
In the shoulder paraceratherium It would have measured 4.5 meters in height, weighing between 15 and 20 tons, more than the largest African elephant ever recorded.
It had a long neck, contributing to its 23 feet long, which would have supported a skull that itself was as long as a large child.
The skulls reveal that the creature had a trunk and two fang-shaped incisors, but it probably had no horn despite genetics placing it in the rhino family.
Despite its weight, paraceratherium lasted only about 11 million years, much less than other rhino progenitors such as Elasmoterium.
The authors’ analyzes place this species in a group with another closely related giant rhino species called pretty paraceratherium, which together have a close relationship with the giant rhinos of Pakistan.
These findings raise the possibility that the giant rhino passed through the Tibetan region before becoming the lofty plateau that it is today.
From there, it may have reached the Indian-Pakistani subcontinent in the Oligocene epoch (between 28 and 23 million years ago), where other specimens of giant rhinos have been found, and where modern rhinos until recently still lived.
This land route could inform paleontologists of other possible discoveries of mammals that, like paraceratherium, passed over the Asian continent during the Oligocene.
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