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Discovery of the skull of Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis (Jäger, 1839) above the Arctic Circle

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2017

Irina V. Kirillova
National Alliance of Shidlovskiy “Ice Age,” Ice Age Museum, Bldg. 119, Mira pr., Moscow 129223, Russia
Olga F. Chernova
A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Bldg. 33, Leninskiy pr., Moscow 119071, Russia
Jan van der Made
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, c. José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
Vladimir V. Kukarskih
Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Bldg. 202, ul. 8-go Marta, Yekaterinburg 620144, Russia
Beth Shapiro
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA UCSC Genomics Institute, University of California Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
Johannes van der Plicht
Center for Isotope Research, Groningen University, Nijenborgh 6, 9747 AG Groningen, the Netherlands Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, Einsteinweg 2, 2333 CC Leiden, the Netherlands
Fedor K. Shidlovskiy
National Alliance of Shidlovskiy “Ice Age,” Ice Age Museum, Bldg. 119, Mira pr., Moscow 129223, Russia
Peter D. Heintzman
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
Thijs van Kolfschoten
Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, Einsteinweg 2, 2333 CC Leiden, the Netherlands
Oksana G. Zanina
Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences, Bldg. 2, ul. Institutskaya, Pushchino, Moscow region 142290, Russia
E-mail address:


The skull of the extinct rhinoceros Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis (Jäger, 1839) was discovered in the Chondon River valley (Arctic Yakutia, Russia) during the summer of 2014. This is the first find of Stephanorhinus above the Arctic Circle, expanding significantly the known geographic range of the genus. 14C dating and geologic evidence indicate that the skull dates to between 48,000 and 70,000 yr, corresponding to Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 4/3. It is thus among the latest records of this species. To explore the evolutionary and natural history of this relatively unknown animal, we performed morphological, dietary, and genetic analyses. Phylogenetic inference based on a complete mitochondrial genome sequence confirms the systematic placement of Stephanorhinus as most closely related to the extinct woolly rhinoceros, Coelodonta. Food remains in the fossas of the cheek teeth, identified as Larix, Vaccinium, Betula sp., Aulacomnium, and dicotyledonous herbs and grasses, suggest a mixed feeder’s diet. Microwear analysis suggests that, during the last months of its life, this individual fed predominantly on leaves and twigs. The habitat of Stephanorhinus comprised grassland and open woodland that were characterized by moist and cold climate conditions, similar to those in the region today.

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Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2017 

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Discovery of the skull of Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis (Jäger, 1839) above the Arctic Circle
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Discovery of the skull of Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis (Jäger, 1839) above the Arctic Circle
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Discovery of the skull of Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis (Jäger, 1839) above the Arctic Circle
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