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Rhinoceros don't roam the prairies of Texas today, and some might not even know they once roamed the Great Plains. But one Texas A&M University student knows about rhinos: she's identified unique specimens from fossilized remains found in the mountains of Tennessee dating back almost 5 million years.
Rachel Short, a doctoral candidate in the department of ecosystem science and management at Texas A&M University, is part of a team that identified a new species of ancient rhinoceros, Teleoceras aepysoma, from the late Hemphillian-aged Gray Fossil Site of eastern Tennessee.
Genus - Teleoceras - Rhinos - Species - Changes
The genus, Teleoceras, has been described as the "pot-bellied rhinos," though this new, taller species changes that, and the species name, aepysoma, means "high-bodied," Short said. Longer front legs and the lack of a nasal horn are only a few of the body features that make this rhino different from other species already identified.
Short recently published her findings with co-authors Laura Emmert with the Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology, and Dr. Steven Wallace, professor and curator of the Museum of Natural History, both at East Tennessee State University.
Short - Emmert - Master - Degrees - East
Short and Emmert completed their master's degrees at East Tennessee in 2013, and Wallace was their advisor. Short said she got involved with the project because of an interest in North American rhinoceroses that started when she interned at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in northeastern Nebraska.
According to the new rhino research, the occurrence of Teleoceras aepysoma in the Appalachian Mountains is unique within a genus typically found in the Great Plains.
Habitat - Factor - Features - Forelimbs - Browse
"Habitat is most likely a major factor in the unique features," she said. "We suspect the longer forelimbs helped the rhinos browse on shrubs and trees in the oak-hickory forest. It was a forested environment with little grass, and the smaller tapirs would have been browsing on shorter shrubs, so the...
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