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November 22 2012

9.2-Million-Year-Old Rhino Skull Preserved by Instant 'Cooking to Death' in Volcanic Ash


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 Nov. 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.

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