Thursday, March 24, 2011

Woolly Rhinoceros

Woolly Rhinoceros by Charles R. Knight
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Perissodactyla
Family : Rhinocerotidae
Genus : †Coelodonta
Species : †C. antiquitatis

Length : 12ft (3.7m)
Weight : 2-3 tons (1,800-2,700kg)

Status : Extinct since around 8,000 BCE

We've all heard about Woolly Mammoths, but what about Woolly Rhinos? These huge beasts lived across Europe and Asia during the Pleistocene. They shared land with the aforementioned Mammoths, but never manged to make it to the Americas. Despite that, they had one of the largest ranges of any Rhinoceros to ever live.

Preserved Woolly Rhino
Woolly Rhinos were amazingly well adapted to cold environments. They had a thick double coat of fur, with dense under-hairs and longer top hairs. They also had large horns that they used to push away snow in order to feed on grasses. We know what we do about this species thanks to a few specimens that have been found in Eastern Europe and Siberia. A pretty amazing carcass, found preserved in a tar pit, is now on display at the Museum of Natural History in Krakow, Poland.

It is still a bit of a mystery as to why and how the Woolly Rhino went extinct. The spread and growth of human populations might have had something to do with it. It may also have been due to climate change,which saw the loss of the Rhino's favorite grasslands. This same climate change could account for the loss of many other grazing mega-fauna species, and explain the continued existence of browsers like Reindeer and Musk Oxen.

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