Woolly rhino site reveals ancient British temperature
Scientists, including our faculty colleague Dr. Mike Field, studying an exceptionally well-preserved woolly rhinoceros have revealed details of what Britain's environment was like 42,000 years ago. The beast's remains were discovered in Staffordshire in 2002, buried alongside other preserved organisms such as beetles and non-biting midges.
The research team used these climate-sensitive insects to calculate that summer temperatures in Britain would have averaged just 10C, and dropped to -22C in winter. The results are published in the Journal of Quaternary Science.
The discovery of the preserved woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) skeleton in a quarry at Whitemoor Haye was "the most significant fossil find of a large mammal in Britain for over 100 years," said team leader Professor Danielle Schreve from Royal Holloway, University of London.
"Woolly rhino bones and teeth are not uncommon in Britain but they are frequently heavily gnawed by predators, especially spotted hyenas."
Alongside the woolly rhinoceros skeleton, palaeontologists uncovered remains of other mammals, such as mammoths and reindeer, as well as well-preserved insects.
The research team, comprising scientists from the UK and and Netherlands, analysed these fossils for clues about what the environment in Britain was like at the time of the organisms' death.
Journal of Quaternary Science
Volume 28, Issue 2
A Middle Devensian woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) from Whitemoor Haye Quarry, Staffordshire (UK): palaeoenvironmental context and significance.
Danielle Schreve, Andy Howard, Andrew Currant, Stephen Brooks, Simon Buteux, Russell Coope, Barnaby Crocker, Michael Field, Malcolm Greenwood, James Greig, Phillip Toms
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