Chinese paleontologists have unearthed a new species of enormous rhino, the world’s largest land mammal. According to a report published in the journal Communications Biology on Thursday, fossils discovered in northwest China’s Gansu region suggest a new species of enormous rhino that existed over 26 million years ago. A Chinese and American team led by Deng Tao of the academy’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) studied remains obtained in 2015 and called the new species, Paraceratherium linxiaense, or Linxia Giant Rhino.
One fossil of a perfectly preserved skull, jawbone, and teeth, as well as the atlas, the region of the body where the head joins to the spine, was discovered. Three vertebrae make up another fossil. The remains offered enough detail for the team to create a computerized 3D model and compare them to the remains of other enormous rhinos, leading to the classification of a new species distinguished by its longer, more flexible neck.
“Usually fossils come in pieces, but this one is complete, with very whole skull and jaw, which is rare,” Deng told CNN.
It is taller than a giraffe and roughly the size of six elephants, the rhino towered 23 feet above the ground, and its body was 26 feet long, Deng told CNN. It weighed roughly 24 tons. The skull was more than three feet long. By comparison, adult male giraffes may exceed 18 feet in height, with females reaching around 14 feet.
“It was a very rare case for a skull of big size to be preserved,” Deng said.
Scientists already knew about giant rhinos, or Paraceratherium, which have been found across Asia – mainly in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China. But the new species, Paraceratherium linxiaense, shows that these prehistoric pachyderms made huge migrations across the continent.
With projected shoulder heights of over 16 feet and a weight of over 40,000 pounds, these huge rhinos were much larger than modern-day rhinos. They were also devoid of horns. The find provides insight into how the landscape has changed after these gigantic creatures vanished.