Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ice Age Beasts In Europe: Migration Of The Woolly Rhinoceros Earlier Than Assumed

Date:
November 12, 2008
Source:
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum
Summary:
The newly described skull of the oldest woolly rhinoceros in Europe shows that these giant creatures -- with two impressively large horns on the bridge of their noses -- once roamed across central Germany. The large shaggy mammals grazed at the foot of the Kyffhäuser range, whose unforested, rocky slopes loomed out of the broad, bleak plains of northern Thuringia 460,000 years ago. The climate at this time was icy cold and far drier than today.

Woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta tologoijensis).
Credit: Copyright Senckenberg Research Institute

The newly described skull of the oldest woolly rhinoceros in Europe shows that these giant creatures – with two impressively large horns on the bridge of their noses – once roamed across central Germany. The large shaggy mammals grazed at the foot of the Kyffhäuser range, whose unforested, rocky slopes loomed out of the broad, bleak plains of northern Thuringia 460,000 years ago. The climate at this time was icy cold and far drier than today.

Related Articles


At the time, the brow of a glacier existed only a few kilometres away, which expanded during the Elsterian ice age from Scandinavia towards the southwest and spread across the monotonous grassland. But well adapted creatures such as mammoths, reindeer, musk ox and other cold climate animals were able to survive in what was known as the mammoth steppe and found suitable food sources here. The uniform type of vegetation that emerged under these particular climatic conditions once stretched from the coasts of the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific and extended as far as central Europe in the west.

“This is the oldest woolly rhinoceros found in Europe, and it gives us a precise date for the first appearance of cold climate animals spreading throughout Asia and Europe during the ice ages. The characteristic species of mammals emerged together and across the continent”, is how palaeontologist Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke explains the finding’s significance.

The skull was discovered more than a century ago in a gravel pit at the foot of the Kyffhäuser range near Bad Frankenhausen, but it was found as more than 50 fragments. These have only now been pieced together at Weimar’s Senckenberg Research Institute to make this the most complete Coelodonta tologoijensis in the world. The reconstructed specimen provides the first evidence that this woolly rhinoceros species had advanced into Europe even before the first glacial stage. The animal was around 12 years old when its life ended about 460,000 years ago. It died in a melt-water delta flowing off the inland glacier that had advanced southwest as far as central Germany.

The ancestors of this large ice age mammal evolved around two million years earlier in the northern foothills of the Himalayas. For a long time Coelodonta lived exclusively in an area of central China around 6,000 kilometres away and east of Lake Baikal. The prevailing conditions at the time were marked by a continental dry climate and extreme seasonal temperature fluctuations, so the central Asian ancestors of the Bad Frankenhausen woolly rhinoceros were adapted to foraging for meagre steppe food and very well equipped for the winter cold.

The recently published Senckenberg study of the oldest rhinoceros from the central European mammoth steppe, by Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke and Frédéric Lacombat, found that woolly rhinoceroses continued to adapt to meet the conditions they experience throughout many millennia. The ‘original’ diet of Coelodonta two million years earlier was rather mixed, including the leaves of shrubs and trees, but as the landscape was increasingly desertified by changing climatic conditions the animals became prime specialists in browsing for steppe food growing lower down on the ground. “Analysis of the Frankenhausen specimen shows that Coelodonta tologoijensis carried its head low along the ground and had a lawnmower-like mouth with a huge set of grinding teeth. As the climate became colder, these animals became more efficient at utilising the available food ”, says Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke.

Kahlke, who is Head of the Weimar Department of Quaternary Palaeontology, and his co-author Frédéric Lacombat have investigated a number of woolly rhinoceros skulls from Asia and Europe. The facet-like stress marks on the impressively large frontal horns retrieved from permafrost soils show that the animals’ status symbol was not only used as a weapon against other great ice age fauna but was also used in ingesting food.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kahlke, R. -D., Lacombat, F. The earliest immigration of woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta tologoijensis, Rhinocerotidae, Mammalia) into Europe and its adaptive evolution in Palaearctic cold stage mammal faunas. Quarternary Science Review, Volume 27, November 2008

Cite This Page:

Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "Ice Age Beasts In Europe: Migration Of The Woolly Rhinoceros Earlier Than Assumed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081111093919.htm>.
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. (2008, November 12). Ice Age Beasts In Europe: Migration Of The Woolly Rhinoceros Earlier Than Assumed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081111093919.htm
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "Ice Age Beasts In Europe: Migration Of The Woolly Rhinoceros Earlier Than Assumed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081111093919.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) — The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Controversial French Dam Halted After Death of Protester

Controversial French Dam Halted After Death of Protester

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) — Local French authorities Friday decided to suspend work on a controversial dam after the death last week of an activist protesting against the project that sparked uproar in the country. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) — A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) — Aerial video shows the path lava has carved across a portion of Hawaii's big island, threatening homes in the town of Pahoa. Officials say the flow was just over 230 yards from a roadway Thursday morning. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins