Scientists say the animal is likely between 20,000 and 50,000 years old

December 30, 2020 07:44 PM
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Woolly Rhino
| Credit: The Siberian Times

An extremely well-preserved carcass of a woolly rhino has been discovered in Russia.

The rhino, which scientists say is likely between 20,000 and 50,000 years old, was discovered in August in thawing permafrost in Yakutia, a northern region of Russia, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

The specimen was found in the Abyisk district on the bank of the Tirekhtyakh river. Another woolly rhino, estimated to be 34,000 years old, was found in the same area back in 2014.

The rhino found this year has been impressively well-preserved: many of its soft tissues are undamaged, including part of its intestines. A lump of fat and hair were also still intact, and the animal's horn was discovered nearby, the Guardian reported.

Russian Academy of Sciences paleontologist Valery Plotnikov reportedly said on Russian news that the rhino was probably 3 or 4 years old when it died and that the animal may have drowned.

"A small nasal horn has also been preserved. This is a rarity, since it decomposes rather quickly," Plotnikov said on Yakutia 24 TV, adding that some signs of wear on its horn suggested the rhino "was actively using it for food."

Plotnikov also said that because the rhino's intestines were intact, they will be able to "reconstruct the paleoenvironment of that period" by studying its excrement.

When scientists are able to travel on the Arctic roads in January, the rhino will be brought to a lab for more precise study and dating.

The rhino is one of the best-preserved animals to be discovered in the area, the BBC reported. More and more similar discoveries are being made as permafrost melts due to ongoing climate change.

In September, the remains of an Ice Age bear were also found in northeastern Russia; the animal's nose and teeth were still intact.

"It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place, even including its nose," said Dr. Lena Grigorieva, a paleontologist at the North-Eastern Federal University, said at the time, per the BBC. "Previously, only skulls and bones were found. This find is of great importance for the whole world."