This Prehistoric Rhino Was Taller Than A Giraffe And Four Times Heavier Than An Elephant

By

367 Words 3-Minute Listen
An artist's impression of the new species of the ancient giant rhino, one of the largest mammals to walk on land (Credit: Yu Chen)

Modern-day rhinos, which weigh anywhere from 1,800 to 5,100 pounds, are no lightweights. However, they pale in comparison to their prehistoric cousin that roamed China about 26 million years ago. The massive mammal weighed 46,000 pounds — almost as much as four large African elephants. Standing at a height of 23ft (7m), it was also taller than a giraffe.

Dr. Tao Deng, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team stumbled upon remains of two specimens of the massive rhino in the Linxia Basin in northwest China in 2015. One fossil comprised a perfectly preserved skull, jawbone, teeth, and the atlas vertebra, which connects the head to the spine. The second fossil consisted of three complete vertebrae.

Paraceratherium rhinos were amont the largest terrestrial mammals that ever existed (DagdaMor, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

A closer examination revealed that the two specimens were a previously unknown new species of the Paraceratherium — an extinct genus of the hornless rhino. The animals, among the largest mammals to walk on land, roamed across Asia during the Oligocene period (34 million to 23 million years ago).

The researchers, who called the new species Paraceratherium linxiaens, say this is the sixth and largest member of the rhinos found to date. The skull size indicates that the P. linxiaens had a long, thick neck and a short torso, while the vertebrae point to a more flexible neck than other Paraceratheriums. The scientists believe the animals sported four bony legs, similar to those of a giraffe, and were fast runners.

The unearthed fossils belonged to two individuals of a new species of the prehistoric giant rhinos (Credit: Nature journal/Communications Biology)

Dr. Deng's team, who published their findings in the journal Communications Biology on June 17, 2021, believe the new species is related to the Paraceratherium bugtiense, which lived in Pakistan. They speculate that the massive animals migrated to South Asia in search of food during the early Oligocene period. They then most likely ventured back northward when weather conditions in Central Asia improved.

"Animal migration is linked to climate change. So 31 million years ago, when the Mongolian plateau dried up, they moved south," Dr. Deng said to CNN.

The precious fossils are now being safeguarded at the Hezheng Paleozoological Museum in China's north-central Gansu province. Dr. Deng and his team next hope to reconstruct the creature’s muscles to obtain a better estimate of the ancient rhino's body mass.

Resources: Smithsonianmag.com, CNN.com, Nature.com

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
84 Comments
  • pickaxeaxe
    pickaxeaxeMonday, August 2, 2021 at 8:21 pm
    That's a big rhino! If I were riding that rhino I would probably cry because I'm very afraid of heights.
    • eli412
      eli412Monday, August 2, 2021 at 5:55 pm
      Girafaphant
      • unipuppy1668
        unipuppy1668Monday, August 2, 2021 at 7:56 am
        That is big if i was alive in that time i bet thats what they called an Uber for animals to get around.Lol.
        • pop_song_lover
          pop_song_loverSunday, August 1, 2021 at 9:48 am
          If a T_Rex saw this land mammal, it would most definitely bow. XD This is one animal I would not want to have an encounter with at night if I were doing an hike. I was pretty confused when I saw the title of it being a rhino, but being one of the tallest land mammals the weight of 4 African Elephants, with a height taller than the modern day giraffe.
          • judgment11
            judgment11Sunday, August 1, 2021 at 8:42 am
            very big, and thats all I have to say here
            • samriddh
              samriddhSunday, August 1, 2021 at 3:19 am
              prehistoric is so large but I think t-rex dinosaur is more larger than prehistoric but still its amazing
              • ilovecrocs
                ilovecrocsTuesday, July 27, 2021 at 1:09 pm
                Its hard to believe a rhino was once taller then a giraffe 🤔
                • fatkitten83
                  fatkitten83Monday, July 26, 2021 at 7:21 pm
                  It looks like a big ant eater but snout is shorter. Why is it a rhino 🤔
                  • pickaxeaxe
                    pickaxeaxeMonday, August 2, 2021 at 8:20 pm
                    And this is where the relation between chickens and t.rexes comes in 🐔🐲
                  • dani1409
                    dani1409Saturday, July 24, 2021 at 1:00 pm
                    WoW😳
                    • hoogahooga
                      hoogahoogaSaturday, July 24, 2021 at 7:40 am
                      Wow