rinoceronte

Rhinoceros

We explain everything about rhinoceroses, what they eat, their reproduction, and other characteristics. Also, why is it in danger of extinction?

African rhinos have two horns, but Indian and Javan rhinoceroses have only one.

What is a rhinoceros?

It is known as rhinos to certain species of large quadrupedal and herbivorous mammals, equipped with a thick and hard skin, crowned by a single keratin horn in the middle of the snout.

His horn is his most distinctive feature, to the point that it appears at the origin of its name (coming from the Greek words rhino, “nose”, and Kera, “horn”) and has been a prized hunting trophy, throughout the decades that it has taken to the human being to bring this animal to the brink of extinction.

They are solitary and very territorial animals, especially the males, whose horns are used to confront each other when competing for the right to mate or for control of a certain habitat.

There are five species of rhinos all classified zoologically within the family Rhinocerontidae:

  • The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
  • Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
  • The Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
  • The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
  • The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis).

A now-extinct species of woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) is also known, which was common in Europe and North Asia during the last glacial period. It is estimated that these animals evolved in the late Eocene, about 56 million years ago, somewhere in Eurasia.

Over the centuries they went from being small and numerous animals, to becoming the true colossi that they are today, the only living representatives (along with elephants and hippopotamuses) of the Pleistocene or Holocene megafauna.

Characteristics of rhinos

rhinoceros skin features
Rhino skin is composed of overlapping layers of collagen, without hair.

In general, rhinos are characterized by the following:

  • They are large quadrupedal animals, weigh between one and four tons, and have an average body length of 1.70 meters. Their skin is particularly thick, between 1.5 and 5 cm thick, and is composed of overlapping layers of collagen, without hair.
  • The horn on the animal’s snout is made of keratin., without bone components. African rhinos have two horns, while Indian and Javan rhinos have only one. These bumps are highly coveted commercially as an aphrodisiac or traditional remedy.
  • They have relatively small brains for their immense size (barely between 400 and 600 g of brain mass), and they are very unsociable animals, which only come together when they are young (especially between mothers and offspring), and during the mating season.
  • They have a very keen sense of smell and hearing., to compensate for a rather poor vision, with their eyes located on the sides of the head. Instead, their ears are tube-shaped and can move independently towards sound sources.
  • Their coloration tends to be various shades of gray and brown.

Where do rhinos live?

In prehistory, rhinoceroses spread throughout much of the world, and they inhabited North America and Europe until about 10,000 years ago when many species were hunted to near extinction by early mankind.

Currently, they can only be seen in Africa. (South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, and Tanzania, depending on the species) and in some regions of South Asia (India, Nepal, Assam, Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo, depending on the species).

What do rhinos eat?

rhinoceros feeding
Rhinos eat leaves, but can also feed on roots, stems, and branches.

Rhinos are all herbivorous animals. Their diet is mainly made up of leaves, but they can also subsist on roots, stems, and branches that ferment efficiently in their colon. They have powerful molars and premolars with which to grind plant fiber and some species have a more or less prehensile frontal region of the snout.

How do rhinos reproduce?

rhinoceros reproduction
Rhinos have only one calf per calving.

Like all other mammals, rhinos reproduce sexually and viviparously. Males compete for females by smashing their horns together, often injuring themselves in the process, until one of them wins the right to the female. Pregnancies usually last a year and a half., and shed a single calf per birth, which at birth weighs about 65 to 40 kilograms. This can happen at any time of the year.

How long do rhinos live?

The life expectancy of a rhinoceros can vary according to its species, but it is estimated that in the freedom it ranges between 40 and 50 years although cases of greater longevity have been recorded, although not by much.

Are the rhinoceros in danger of extinction?

According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), most Asian species of rhinoceros (Java, Sumatra, and the black rhino) are critically endangered, while the Indian rhinoceros is on the previous rung, that is, in danger of extinction.

Its hunting is prohibited and important efforts are made to preserve existing populations of the species. For its part, the white rhinoceros presents very different conservation statuses depending on which of its two subspecies one refers to. The northern subspecies, Ceratotherium simum cottoni, inhabiting exclusively the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other nearby regions such as the Sudan, is in critical danger of extinction since of the three specimens that remained in custody in 2015, the only male died. in 2018.

In contrast, the southern subspecies, Ceratotherium simum simum, is classified as “near threatened” by international ecological organizations, with an estimated population of 20,150 animals in 2011, which represents a significant improvement over the thousand individuals that were counted at the beginning of the 20th century.

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