THAILAND - The remains of an ancient hornless rhino, thought to be over seven million years old, have been found in Nakhon Ratchasima in the Northeast.
The new find, "Aceratherium porpani", includes a complete skull and two mandibles - left and right sides. These were found in the sand-mining pit near the Mun River at Tha Chang village in Chalerm Phrakiat district.
The site has previously yielded fossils of two other ancient animals - Khoratpithecus piriyai, related to the orangutan, and Merycopotamus thachangensis, a hippo-like even-toed ungulate, known as an "anthracothere".
A study of the ancient hornless rhino was carried out by Prof Deng Tao, a rhino expert from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleo-anthropology in Beijing, plus Asst Prof Pratueng Jintasakul, director of the Northeastern Research Institute of Petrified Wood and Mineral Resources (RIPM), Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University and Rattanaphorn Hanta, a researcher at RIPM.
The species name "A porpani" was in honour of Assoc Prof Porpan Vatchajitpan, a former lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's Business School and former president of the Faculty Senate.
Porpan received these ancient fossils from local villagers 10 years ago and donated them to RIPM in 2009.
This hornless rhino was from the subfamily Aceratheriinae, genus Aceratherium.
It differs from another two species found before, A incisivum and A depereti, in having a flat skull top, straight occiput (back of skull), and broad parietal (brain lobe) with additional difference in molar teeth.
The ancient hornless rhino discovered at Tha Chang has been accepted as a new species and news of the find published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in the United States.
Rattanaphorn said the presence of this ancient rhino fossil indicated Tha Chang subdistrict was a dense forest with grassy areas during the Late Miocene epoch six to 7.5 million years ago.