Palaeontology: Carcass of a woolly rhino from the Ice Age is unearthed from the Siberian permafrost

The frozen carcass of a juvenile woolly rhinoceros from the Ice Age — with its hazel-coloured coat still intact — has been recovered from the permafrost of Siberia.

The remains — which are 80 per cent intact and contain evidence of the animal’s last meal — were excavated in the Abyysky district of the Sakha Republic in August.

They were found by local resident Alexei Savvin — and include various internal organs and structures, including teeth, part of the intestines and a lump of fat.

Experts believe that the remains are most likely some 34,000 years old — although its exact age is yet to be confirmed by radiocarbon dating.

The find was made close to the site where the only-known baby woolly rhino specimen — dubbed Sasha — was excavated back in 2014. 

Last year, the remains of two extinct cave lion cubs — ‘Boris’ and ‘Sparta’ — were found in the same district, close to a tributary of the remote Tirekhtyakh River.

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The frozen carcass of a juvenile woolly rhinoceros from the Ice Age, pictured ¿ with its hazel-coloured coat still intact ¿ has been recovered from the permafrost of Siberia

The frozen carcass of a juvenile woolly rhinoceros from the Ice Age, pictured ¿ with its hazel-coloured coat still intact ¿ has been recovered from the permafrost of Siberia

The frozen carcass of a juvenile woolly rhinoceros from the Ice Age, pictured — with its hazel-coloured coat still intact — has been recovered from the permafrost of Siberia

The frozen carcass was found by local resident Alexei Savvin ¿ and includes various internal organs and structures, including teeth, part of the intestines and a lump of fat

The frozen carcass was found by local resident Alexei Savvin ¿ and includes various internal organs and structures, including teeth, part of the intestines and a lump of fat

The frozen carcass was found by local resident Alexei Savvin — and includes various internal organs and structures, including teeth, part of the intestines and a lump of fat

‘According to preliminary estimates, the rhino is three or four years old and is a very young individual,’ said palaeontologist Albert Protopopov of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic.

‘Most likely, it drowned in the river. The carcass is very well preserved,’ he added.

‘Among other things, part of the internal organs are preserved, which in the future will make it possible to study in more detail how the species ate and lived.’

Researchers also uncovered a horn near to the remains of the young Pleistocene creature,  the sex of which has not yet been determined.

Sasha — the baby woolly rhino excavated from the same area six years ago — was dated back to around 34,000 years ago, but the new find could be between 20,000–50,000 year old, the researchers have said. It is thought to have died in the summer.

‘The Abyisky rhinoceros can already be called the only one of its kind in the world,’ Dr Protopopov said.

‘Earlier, not even the bone remains of individuals of this age were found, not to mention the preserved carcasses of animals.’

‘As a rule, these were either cubs or adults.’

At present, the new specimen is being held near to where it was found, pending transport to the republic’s capital city of Yakutsk when weather permits.

Experts believe that the remains, pictured, are most likely some 34,000 years old ¿ although its exact age is yet to be confirmed by radiocarbon dating

Experts believe that the remains, pictured, are most likely some 34,000 years old ¿ although its exact age is yet to be confirmed by radiocarbon dating

Experts believe that the remains, pictured, are most likely some 34,000 years old — although its exact age is yet to be confirmed by radiocarbon dating

'According to preliminary estimates, the rhino is three or four years old and is a very young individual,' said palaeontologist Albert Protopopov of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic. 'Most likely, it drowned in the river. The carcass is very well preserved,' he added

'According to preliminary estimates, the rhino is three or four years old and is a very young individual,' said palaeontologist Albert Protopopov of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic. 'Most likely, it drowned in the river. The carcass is very well preserved,' he added

‘According to preliminary estimates, the rhino is three or four years old and is a very young individual,’ said palaeontologist Albert Protopopov of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic. ‘Most likely, it drowned in the river. The carcass is very well preserved,’ he added

Sasha — which was seven months old when it died — was found to have strawberry blond curls, a colouration that stands in contrast with the slate grey rhinos of Africa.

Furthermore, the size of baby Sasha — whose carcass sports the stubs of two horns — indicates that woolly rhinos were much larger than their modern counterparts.

Woolly rhinos once roamed across what is today Europe and Russia — and were even present in the south of England.

The find was made close to the site where the only-known baby woolly rhino specimen ¿ dubbed Sasha ¿ was excavated back in 2014. Pictured, Sasha cleaned up and on display

The find was made close to the site where the only-known baby woolly rhino specimen ¿ dubbed Sasha ¿ was excavated back in 2014. Pictured, Sasha cleaned up and on display

The find was made close to the site where the only-known baby woolly rhino specimen — dubbed Sasha — was excavated back in 2014. Pictured, Sasha cleaned up and on display

Sasha, pictured ¿ the baby woolly rhino excavated from the same area six years ago ¿ was dated back to around 34,000 years ago, but the new find could be between 20,000¿50,000 year old, the researchers have said

Sasha, pictured ¿ the baby woolly rhino excavated from the same area six years ago ¿ was dated back to around 34,000 years ago, but the new find could be between 20,000¿50,000 year old, the researchers have said

Sasha, pictured — the baby woolly rhino excavated from the same area six years ago — was dated back to around 34,000 years ago, but the new find could be between 20,000–50,000 year old, the researchers have said

Sasha ¿ which was seven months old when it died ¿ was found to have strawberry blond curls, a colouration that stands in contrast with the slate grey rhinos of Africa. Furthermore, the size of baby Sasha ¿ whose carcass sports the stubs of two horns ¿ indicates that woolly rhinos were much larger than their modern counterparts

Sasha ¿ which was seven months old when it died ¿ was found to have strawberry blond curls, a colouration that stands in contrast with the slate grey rhinos of Africa. Furthermore, the size of baby Sasha ¿ whose carcass sports the stubs of two horns ¿ indicates that woolly rhinos were much larger than their modern counterparts

Sasha — which was seven months old when it died — was found to have strawberry blond curls, a colouration that stands in contrast with the slate grey rhinos of Africa. Furthermore, the size of baby Sasha — whose carcass sports the stubs of two horns — indicates that woolly rhinos were much larger than their modern counterparts

‘We have learned that woolly rhinoceroses were covered in very thick hair,’ said palaeontologist Valery Plotnikov, also of the Academy of Sciences.

‘Previously, we could judge this only from rock paintings discovered in France.’

‘Now, judging by the thick coat with the undercoat, we can conclude that the rhinoceroses were fully adapted to the cold climate very much from a young age.’ 

The extraordinary remains — which are 80 per cent intact and contain evidence of the animal’s last meal — were found in the Abyysky district of the Sakha Republic

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT ANCIENT MEGAFAUNA?

Earth was once inhabited by a variety of giant forms of animals that would be recognisable to us today in the smaller forms taken by their forbears.

They were very large, usually over 88 pounds(40kg) in weight and generally at least 30 per cent bigger than any of their still living relatives.  

There are several theories to explain this relatively sudden extinction. The leading explanation of around was that this was due to environmental and ecological factors. 

It was almost completed by the end of the last ice age. It is believed that megafauna initially came into existence in response to glacial conditions and became extinct with the onset of warmer climates.

In temperate Eurasia and North America, megafauna extinction concluded simultaneously with the replacement of the vast periglacial tundra by an immense area of forest. 

Glacial species, such as mammoths and woolly rhinoceros, were replaced by animals better adapted to forests, such as elk, deer and pigs. 

Reindeers and Caribou retreated north, while horses moved south to the central Asian steppe.

This all happened about 10,000 years ago, despite the fact that humans colonised North America less than 15,000 years ago and non-tropical Eurasia nearly one  million years ago. 

Worldwide, there is no evidence of Indigenous peoples systematically hunting nor over-killing megafauna. 

The largest regularly hunted animal was bison in North America and Eurasia, yet it survived for about 10,000 years until the early 20th century. 

For social, spiritual and economic reasons, First Nations peoples harvested game in a sustainable manner.

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