Rare rhino fossil preserved by prehistoric volcanic eruption
Less than 2% of Earth's fossils are preserved in volcanic rock, but researchers have identified a new one: the skull of a rhino that perished in a volcanic eruption 9.2 million years ago. The find is described in a paper published November 21 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Pierre-Olivier Antoine and colleagues from the University of Montpellier, France. The fossil, found in Turkey, is thought to be that of a large two-horned rhino common in the Eastern Mediterranean region during that period. According to the researchers, unusual features of the preserved skull suggest that the animal was 'cooked to death' at temperatures that may have approached 500° C, in a volcanic flow similar to that of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy in 79 A.D.
The rhino's grisly death was near-instantaneous, and followed by severe dehydration in the extreme heat of the eruption. As the researchers describe its end, "the body was baked under a temperature approximating 400°C, then dismembered within the pyroclastic flow, and the skull separated from body." The flow of volcanic ash then moved the skull about 30 km north of the eruption site, where it was discovered by the four member research team.
Although other researchers have previously identified fossils of soft-bodied organisms preserved in volcanic ash, organic matter near an active volcanic eruption is usually quickly destroyed by the high temperatures, making a fossil such as this one extremely rare.
Source: Public Library of Science
- New insights into volcanic activity on the ocean floorWed, 16 Jun 2010, 13:34:44 EDT
- Crystals in Picabo's rocks point to 'recycled' super-volcanic magma chambersFri, 11 Oct 2013, 10:27:14 EDT
- Massive volcanic eruption puts past climate and people in perspective Mon, 5 Nov 2012, 12:36:54 EST
- No Redoubt: Volcanic eruption forecasting improvedMon, 29 Apr 2013, 17:03:16 EDT
- Could Siberian volcanism have caused the Earth's largest extinction event?Mon, 9 Jan 2012, 15:35:58 EST
- Image Gallery: Fossils Reveal Rhino's Grisly Deathfrom Live ScienceMon, 26 Nov 2012, 9:30:49 EST
- Rhino 'Cooked to Death' 9 Million Years Ago, Fossil Revealsfrom Live ScienceMon, 26 Nov 2012, 9:30:44 EST
- Rhino fossil shows animal cooked to deathfrom UPIFri, 23 Nov 2012, 17:00:24 EST
- Rhino fossil shows animal cooked to deathfrom UPIFri, 23 Nov 2012, 16:00:29 EST
- 9.2-million-year-old rhino skull preserved by instant 'cooking to death' in volcanic ashfrom Science DailyWed, 21 Nov 2012, 23:00:51 EST
- Rare rhino fossil preserved by prehistoric volcanic eruptionfrom PhysorgWed, 21 Nov 2012, 17:31:19 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Environment drives genetics in 'Evolution Canyon'; discovery sheds light on climate change
- Noble gas molecule discovered in space
- Scientists discover double meaning in genetic code
- Surprise: Duck-billed dinosaurs had fleshy 'cocks comb'
- NUS researchers develop novel bio-inspired method to grow high-quality graphene for high-end electronic devices