A group of paleontologists from East Tennessee State University unearthed a new species of rhino at the Gray Fossil Site.
The new species, Teleoceras aepysoma, is a member of a group of rhinoceros called barrel-chested rhinos, which were widespread across the North American plains.
This rhino found at the Gray Fossil Site lived an estimated 4.5 to 4.9 million years ago, and were among the very last rhinos on the continent.
The biggest distinguishing features of the new rhino is its long front limbs, that made it much taller than its relatives.
“If you put it in a group of other Teleoceras species, it would be like the NBA player. It would be noticeably taller and larger,” says Rachel Short, lead author of the new paper and a 2013 graduate of the ETSU master’s degree program in paleontology.
This rhino also lived a different life style compared to other rhino species of the time. The ancient habitat of the Gray Fossil Site was a dense forest, not a grassy plane where rhinos were known to roam. A chemical analysis of the new rhino’s teeth show it was grazing on leaves, not grass.
“I’ve been working on these rhinos for almost eight years,” says Short. “To have it done now is very satisfying and I’m excited to contribute to our understanding of North American rhinos.”