London, Feb 27:
The frozen remains of a baby woolly rhinoceros over 10,000 years old, with its fur, eyes and horns still intact have been discovered on one of the coldest parts of northern Russia, a media report said Friday.
The remains of the 18-month-old woolly rhinoceros christened “Sasha” was the first of their kind to be ever discovered, The Independent reported.
The remains were so well preserved in Siberia’s permafrost that most of the rhinoceros’s fur, an ear, an eye and a set of small horns were found intact, the report said.
The remains were found by hunter Alexander Banderov in September while he was hunting in Yakutia, one of Russia’s coldest areas.
He initially mistook the rhinoceros for a reindeer, but when he saw the horn growths, he soon realised it was something he had never seen before.
However, little did he know that he had stumbled on the world’s first ever baby woolly rhinoceros carcass.
“The find is absolutely unique,” said Albert Protopopov, head of the Mammoth Fauna Department of the Sakha Republic Academy of Science.
“We can count a number of adult woolly rhinos found around the world on fingers of one hand. A baby rhino was never found before,” he added.
It is hoped that the DNA of the baby rhinoceros could now be used for scientific research, with scientists from the Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk, where it is currently being stored, saying it will take a “few weeks” to see if this is possible.
Compared to its fellow Ice Age mammal, the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros carcass discoveries remain extremely rare. The last was in 2011, the first in over four years.
The earliest dated woolly rhinoceros fossil ever discovered was in the Himalayas in 2011 and was believed to belong to a rhinoceros that had died 3.6 million years ago.
It is commonly believed that all woolly rhinoceroses were extinct by 8000 BC, which was most likely caused by over hunting of the species by early man.
The woolly rhinoceros’s closest living relative is thought to be the Sumatran rhinoceros, which is itself facing extinction. IANS