The remains of a baby woolly rhino have been discovered by a hunter in the Siberian permafrost, marking the first time a juvenile of the species has been found. The extinct creature is so well preserved that it even retains its fleece.
The rhino was discovered in one of the largest and coldest regions of Russia, the Sakha Republic, which is also known as Yakutia, according to the Daily Mail. A local hunter, Alexander Banderov, stumbled upon the remains in a ravine last September, originally believing he had found a reindeer. It was only the woolly rhino’s horns that made Banderov realize he had uncovered something quite different.
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The rhino has since been named Sasha, and is the first specimen of its kind to be discovered, experts assert. While its age is uncertain, researchers believe that the rhino was around 18-months-old when it died. According to Albert Protopopov, who is the Head of the Mammoth Fauna Department at the Sakha Republic Academy of Science, the number of adult woolly rhinos discovered in the world can be counted on one hand.
“There was only one case in the 21st century when we found a frozen carcass of a grown up woolly rhino in Yakutia. It was in 2007 in Kolyma. In the 20th century there were carcasses of woolly mammoths found in Verkhoyansky and Vilyuisky districts, but they were mummified and therefore not usable for studies.”
The woolly rhino is far less studied than the woolly mammoth, as fewer specimens have been uncovered. Earlier this year, bones of a woolly mammoth were discovered in a Michigan backyard, as the Inquisitr previously reported. Dr. Protopopov asserted that the lack of juvenile woolly rhino specimens may be a testament to the ferocity with which mother rhinos would protect their young.
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Excited researchers are hoping to report their first findings from the woolly rhino in the next few weeks. They assert that the chances of recovering DNA from the rhino specimen are high, as the carcass was kept frozen for so long. Since no juvenile woolly rhino has ever been uncovered before, scientists hope that Sasha will tell them much about the habitat, development, and lineage of the species, according to the Siberian Times.
Some scientists assert that woolly rhinos may have been over-hunted by early man, much like woolly mammoths. Though reasons for their decline are not fully understood, woolly rhinos went extinct around 10,000 years ago.
[Image: Republic of Sakha Academy of Sciences via the Daily Mail]