Rhino ’Cooked to Death’ 9 Million Years Ago, Fossil Reveals
Source: livescience.comAbout 9.2 million years ago, a teenage two-horned rhinoceros was literally cooked to death when a Mt. Vesuvius-like eruption enveloped it in lava reaching more than 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius), scientists say.
The perhaps fortunate result: a well-preserved skull of the Rhinocerotid, with a tale to tell.
An analysis of the volcanic rock-preserved skull suggests the animal’s grisly death was near instantaneous. "[T]he body was baked under a temperature approximating 400°C, then dismembered within the pyroclastic flow, and the skull separated from body," the researchers wrote online Nov. 21 in the journal PLoS ONE. The flow of volcanic ash carried the detached skull about 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of the eruption site and to the site where it was discovered in Cappadocia in Central Turkey.
"The articulated skull and mandible were found alone, and there were no other rhino bones in the surroundings, except for some rib fragments, potentially of rhino affinities," said study researcher Pierre-Olivier Antoine of the University of Montpellier in France.
When alive, the rhino (Ceratotherium neumayri) would have weighed between 3,300 and 4,400 pounds (1,500 and 2,000 kilograms), about the size of a young white rhino, though sporting a shorter head, Antoine said. The animal was 10 to 15 years old, a young adult, when it died in a Pompeii-style eruption.
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