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

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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

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81 Comments
  • sweetwater28
    sweetwater28Thursday, July 22, 2021 at 3:56 pm
    Wow that’s so cool I love this animal, but I think it’s too big to survive here if it was brought back to life!
    • nintendogirl84
      nintendogirl84Thursday, July 22, 2021 at 10:42 am
      What in the poodles! My heart stopped when i seen this ♡ wowie im glad its not here anymore ( ・ε・)
      • lego_man
        lego_manThursday, July 22, 2021 at 5:05 am
        I once read that nearly all animals were bigger than they are today!
        • bellykelly
          bellykellyTuesday, July 20, 2021 at 7:09 pm
          the pictures they put about hit looks.probaly looks bigger that it actually is.I have I have never seen an animal heavier than elephant and neither have I heard of a animal bigger than a giraffe
          • nintendogirl84
            nintendogirl84Thursday, July 22, 2021 at 10:43 am
            Yea bc its PREHISTORIC i think its really that big ☺️
          • seajay
            seajayTuesday, July 20, 2021 at 7:12 am
            I have never seen a animal bigger then a giraffe. What prehistoric animal will they discover next.
            • uzumaki_chan
              uzumaki_chanMonday, July 19, 2021 at 9:36 am
              I wonder if there's a ancestor for foxes and wolves though fourth grade never taught me and I didn't even go to my in person fifth grade yet bc its summer break
              • uzumaki_chan
                uzumaki_chanMonday, July 19, 2021 at 9:34 am
                What the heck- that would be terrifying if I saw that in real life today Old I just saw that my name was cut off instead of frostheartsilverwolf its frost heart solve 😂😂😂
                • bloodmoonvampir
                  bloodmoonvampirMonday, July 19, 2021 at 7:49 am
                  Whoa ! That is big. Prehistoric animals are so cool. I just love reading about how they eveolved.
                  • xnestorio
                    xnestorioSunday, July 18, 2021 at 10:30 am
                    Wow thats really big! Perhaps they will find a prehistoric giraffe.
                    • artlover200
                      artlover200Friday, July 16, 2021 at 10:51 pm
                      But it also looks harmless so it would be a little tempting to not ride on it 🐾😩