Meet Sasha: the First-Ever Baby Woolly Rhino, 18-Month-Old, Found Preserved in Siberian Ice After Being Buried for 10,000 Years

The remains of a baby woolly rhinoceros, which still has its fleece, has been discovered in the ice of Siberia.

Named Sasha, the extinct creature – which must be at least 10,000 years old and is the first juvenile woolly rhino to be found – was well preserved by permafrost and experts are hopeful of extracting its DNA.

A local hunter found the infant woolly rhino in a ravine by a stream in Russia’s largest and coldest region, the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, in September.

As if he was sleeping: The remains of a baby woolly rhinoceros, (pictured) who has been named Sasha and still has its wool, has been discovered in the ice of Siberia. It is the first juvenile of the species to be found

Initially, he thought the carcass was a reindeer, until he saw the horn growths and realised he had made the historic discovery of the world’s first baby woolly rhino.

‘The age of the calf when it died has yet to be established, but scientists estimate it to be about 18 months old,’ The Siberian Times reported.

‘Precise tests will be conducted to ascertain when Sasha died, with the results likely in six months.

‘The creature’s wool is well preserved, and an ear, one eye, its nostrils, and mouth are clearly visible.

The age of the calf when it died has yet to be established, but scientists estimate it to be about 18 months old. The animal’s lower half is missing as it was sticking out of the permafrost and was eaten by wild animals

A local hunter found the infant woolly rhino in a ravine by a stream in Russia’s largest and coldest region, the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, in September. The region and its capital city is shown

THE WOOLLY RHINOCEROS  AND THE ANCIENT TUNDRA ENVIRONMENT

Ancient beast:Based on skeletons and cave paintings, scientists believe that adult woolly rhinos (illustrated) were up to 13ft (4 metres) long

The woolly rhinoceros is an extinct species of rhinoceros that was common throughout Europe and northern Asia during the Pleistocene epoch and survived the last glacial period.

The last of the species is thought to have died out around 10,000 years ago.

In the Pleistocene epoch, the woolly rhino roamed across Europe and Asia from Scotland and Spain in the west, to South Korea in the east.

It was well adapted to its environment, with stocky limbs and a thick woolly fleece to suit the icy tundra.

Previous studies using DNA from the ancient creatures have found that its closest modern relative is the Sumatran rhino.

Based on skeletons and cave paintings, scientists believe that adult woolly rhinos were up to 13ft (4metres) long and weighed as much as 4,400lbs (2,000kg).

The two horns on the skull were made of keratin – the longest being 24 inches (61cm) – and the woolly rhinoceros used them for defensive purposes and to attract mates, but spent most of its time grazing on grasses.

The reason for their extinction around 10,000 years ago is not fully understood, but like woolly mammoths, they may have been over-hunted by early man and affected by the receding Ice Age and the spread of disease.

‘The remnants of two horns were found on the carcass.’

Albert Protopopov, Head of the Mammoth Fauna Department, of the Sakha Republic Academy of Science, said: ‘The find is absolutely unique.

‘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.

‘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 animal’s wool is well preserved, and an ear, one eye, its nostrils, and mouth are clearly visible (pictured). Albert Protopopov, of the Sakha Republic Academy of Science, said: ‘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’

In the Pleistocene epoch the woolly rhino roamed across Europe and Asia from Scotland and Spain in the west, to South Korea in the east. A stock image is shown. The reason for their extinction around 10,000 years ago is not fully understood, but like woolly mammoths, they may have been over-hunted by early man and affected by the receding Ice Age and the spread of disease

Until now, scientists had no evidence of baby woolly rhinos, but now they have a skull and head, soft tissues and well preserved teeth to learn more about the prehistoric animal.  Here, the baby rhino’s foot and leg is shown. Scientists hope to extract DNA from the remains

Previous studies using DNA from the ancient creatures have found that its closest modern relative is the Sumatran rhino (pictured)

He added: ‘Even to find a skull of a baby rhino is very lucky indeed.

‘The possible explanation to it is that rhinos bred very slowly. Mothers protected baby rhinos really well, so that cases of successful attacks on them were extremely rare and the mortality rate was very low.’

Woolly rhinos are less studied than mammoths.

Dr Protopopov said: ‘We are hoping Sasha the rhino will give us a lot of answers to questions of how they grew and developed, what conditions they lived in, and which of the modern day animals is the closest to them.

‘We know nothing about baby rhinos, while the morphology of adults is better known.’

‘So far we didn’t have a chance to work even with a tooth of a baby rhino, and now we have the whole skull, the head, soft tissues, and well preserved teeth.’

Scientists will first try to extract DNA from the remains, which was kept frozen to increase the chances of this being possible. They hope to get results in a ‘week or two’.

The calf’s remains weigh 132lbs (60kg) and were found by Alexander Banderov, a hunter and businessman from Abyysky district.

‘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,’ said Dr Protopopov. An image of Kolyma’s frozen body is shown

It was named after him – Russians use Sasha as a short name for Alexander.

Mr Banderov and his friend Semen Ivanov were sailing past a ravine and noticed hair ‘hanging on top of it’.

He explained: ‘At first we thought it was a reindeer’s carcass, but after it thawed and fell down we saw a horn on its upper jaw and realised it must be a rhino.

‘The part of the carcass that stuck out of the ice was eaten by wild animals, but the rest of it was inside the permafrost and preserved well.

‘We immediately got in touch with Mammoth Fauna Department of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences.’

In the Pleistocene epoch the woolly rhino roamed across Europe and Asia from Scotland and Spain in the west, to South Korea in the east.

The reason for their extinction around 10,000 years ago is not fully understood, but like woolly mammoths, they may have been over-hunted by early man and affected by the receding Ice Age and the spread of disease.

 

Sia

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