Woolly rhinos may have grown strange extra ribs before going extinct | Science News

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Woolly rhinos may have grown strange extra ribs before going extinct

Odd bones attached to neck could have signaled genetic trouble

11:00am, September 7, 2017

RHINO TWILIGHT  As woolly rhinos dwindled to extinction, their odds of having odd ribs attached to their neck bones may have risen. Here, one of the creatures is shown in a wall painting at Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave in southern France.

As time ran out for the woolly rhino, strange things happened. Before going extinct, some of the beasts faced an unusually high risk of growing bizarre ribs in their neck, a new study suggests. Those misplaced ribs might have signaled the animals’ impending demise.

Scientists examined neck bones from 32 woolly rhinos and found indented spots on five of them where ribs had once attached to the seventh cervical vertebra, the lowermost bone in the neck. That amounts to strange cervical ribs on about 16 percent of the creatures. For comparison, 56 specimens of the same vertebra from modern rhino skeletons had no such spots, says Frietson Galis, an evolutionary biologist at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands. Galis and paleontologist Alexandra van der Geer, also at Naturalis, report the findings August 29 in PeerJ.

Found in what is now the North Sea and in adjacent Dutch deltas and

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