Ema Elsa, a nine-year-old Black Rhino, lies next to her newborn calf in their enclosure at Chester Zoo in Chester, northern England October 5, 2012 (Photo : Reuters)
French paleontologists have discovered a new fossil preserved in volcanic rock of a rhino skull that was "cooked to death" during an eruption 9.2 million years ago, United Press International reported on Friday. The fossil was found in Turkey by researchers from the University of Montpellier, France.
According to UPI, the fossil is of a large two-horned rhino, called Ceratotherium neumayri, that was common to the Eastern Mediterranean region during that time period. The preserved skull revealed that the rhino died in extreme high temperatures in a volcanic eruption similar to the one of Mount Vesuvius in Italy in A.D. 79, UPI wrote.
Lead researcher Pierre-Olivier Antoine explained, "The body was baked under a temperature approximating 400 degrees centigrade (750 degrees Fahrenheit), then dismembered within the pyroclastic flow, and the skull separated from body."
The Business Standard reported that the skull was then moved close to 30 km north of the eruption site by the flow of volcanic ash.
Discovering a preserved fossil like the one found by the French research team is extremely rare. According to UPI, extreme temperatures normally destroy organic materials near active volcanic eruptions quickly.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One on November 21, 2012.