The astonishing discovery was perhaps three or four years old when it perished at least 20,000 years ago.
A specimen of a woolly rhinoceros on display at the Weston Park Museum in Sheffield, United Kingdom. The newly discovered specimen is a youngster. Credit image: Chemical Engineer
It is the best-preserved juvenile woolly rhino ever discovered, with many of its internal organs – including its hazel-colored hair, intestines, fat deposits, and tissues – having been preserved by permafrost for thousands of years.
In August, the Ice Age monster was discovered in thawing permafrost in the province of Yakutia in the extreme north of Russia. It is believed to be the best-preserved woolly rhino ever discovered there.
Dr. Valery Plotnikov of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), who was the first to describe the discovery, told the Siberian Times, “The baby rhino was between three and four years old and lived apart from its mother when it died, most likely by drowning.”
“The animal’s [sex] is yet unclear. We are awaiting the results of radiocarbon dating to determine when it lived; the most probable range is between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago.”
The well preserved rhinoceros was discovered near another significant recent discovery: Sasha, the world’s sole woolly rhinoceros, discovered in 2014. Sasha’s strawberry-yellow plumage is 34,000 years old and is remarkable.
The freshly discovered specimen, according to Dr. Plotnikov, has a “quite thick short undercoat.” Sasha assisted scientists in demonstrating that woolly rhinos were coated in thick fur, a fact previously implied exclusively by cave paintings. The latest finding provides additional proof that young woolly rhinos are well suited to cold regions.