Oxpeckers warn black rhinos against danger

This 2017 video from Africa is called Black Rhino & Oxpeckers; A cleaning service.

And the birds do more for the rhino than just cleaning.

From ScienceDaily:

Black rhinos eavesdrop on the alarm calls of hitchhiking oxpeckers to avoid humans

April 9, 2020

In Swahili, red-billed oxpeckers are called Askari wa kifaru, or “the rhino’s guard”. Now, a paper appearing April 9 in the journal Current Biology suggests that this indigenous name rings true: red-billed oxpeckers may act as a first line of defense against poachers by behaving like sentinels, sounding an alarm to potential danger. By tracking wild black rhinos, researchers found that those carrying oxpeckers were far better at sensing and avoiding humans than those without the hitchhiking bird.

While conservation efforts have rebounded the critically endangered black rhino’s numbers, poaching remains a major threat. “Although black rhinos have large, rapier-like horns and a thick hide, they are as blind as a bat. If the conditions are right, a hunter could walk within five meters of one, as long as they are downwind,” says Roan Plotz (@RoanPlotz), a lecturer and behavioral ecologist at Victoria University, Australia., who co-authored the paper with ecological scientist Wayne Linklater (@PolitEcol) of California State University — Sacramento. Oxpeckers, which are known to feed on the ticks and lesions found on the rhino’s body, may make up for the rhino’s poor eyesight by calling out if they detect an approaching human.

To study the role that oxpeckers might play, Plotz and his team recorded the number of oxpeckers on two groups of the rhinos they encountered. Rhinos tagged with radio transmitters — which allowed researchers to track them while evading detection from oxpeckers — carried the bird on their backs more than half the time. The untagged black rhinos they found, on the other hand, carried no oxpeckers most of the time — suggesting that other untagged rhinos that carried the birds might have avoided encountering the researchers altogether. “Using the differences we observed between oxpeckers on the tagged versus untagged rhinos, we estimated that between 40% and 50% of all possible black rhino encounters were thwarted by the presence of oxpeckers,” says Plotz.

Even when the researchers were able to locate the tagged rhinos, the oxpeckers’ alarm calls still appeared to play a role in predator defense. The field team ran a “human approach” experiment, where one researcher would walk towards the rhino from crosswind while a colleague recorded the rhino’s behavior. The field team recorded the number of oxpecker carried, the rhinos’ behavior upon approach, and the distance of the researcher when either the rhinos became vigilant or, if undetected, it became unsafe to get any closer.

“Our experiment found that rhinos without oxpeckers detected a human approaching only 23% of the time. Due to the bird’s alarm call, those with oxpeckers detected the approaching human in 100% of our trials and at an average distance of 61 meters — nearly four times further than when rhinos were alone. In fact, the more oxpeckers the rhino carried, the greater the distance at which a human was detected,” he says. He adds that these improved detection and distance estimates may even be conservative, because they don’t take into account the untagged rhinos carrying oxpeckers that the team could not detect.

When a rhino perceived the oxpecker alarm call, it nearly always re-oriented itself to face downwind — their sensory blind spot. “Rhinos cannot smell predators from downwind, making it their most vulnerable position. This is particularly true from humans, who primarily hunt game from that direction,” says Plotz.

Taken together, these results suggest that oxpeckers are effective companions that enable black rhinos to evade encounters with people and facilitate effective anti-predator strategies once found. Some scientists even hypothesize that oxpeckers evolved this adaptive behaviour as a way to protect their source of food: the rhinos.

“Rhinos have been hunted by humans for tens of thousands of years, but the species was driven to the brink of extinction over the last 150 years. One hypothesis is that oxpeckers have evolved this cooperative relationship with rhinos relatively recently to protect their food source from human overkill,” says Plotz.

Despite this closely tied relationship, oxpecker populations have significantly declined, even becoming locally extinct in some areas. As a result, most wild black rhino populations now live without oxpeckers in their environment. But based on the findings in this study, reintroducing the bird back into rhino populations may bolster conservation efforts. “While we do not know that reintroducing the birds would significantly reduce hunting impacts, we do know oxpeckers would help rhinos evade detection, which on its own is a great benefit,” says Plotz.

Plotz says that these findings, inspired by a Swahili name, also highlight the importance of local knowledge. “We too often dismiss the importance of indigenous people and their observations. While western science has been incredibly useful, there are many insights we can learn from indigenous communities.”

Sumatran rhinos, video

This 7 April 2020 video says about itself:

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest rhinoceros species in the world, and one of the world’s most endangered large mammals. In this rare encounter with a mother and calf, you can get up close to these amazing creatures at bath time.

Biggest 15 rhinoceros species, video

This 4 March 2020 video says about itself:

15 Largest Rhino Species to Ever Exist

A rhinoceros, commonly abbreviated to rhino, is one of any five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae, as well as any of the numerous extinct species therein. Two of the extant species are native to Africa, and three to Southern Asia. The term “rhinoceros” is often more broadly applied to now-extinct species of the superfamily Rhinocerotoidea.

Rhino and calf in South Africa

This 31 January 2020 video from South Africa says about itself:

Daniel and his guests had a wonderful sighting of four rhinos – a mom and calf as well as a sub adult female and male! Mom and calf passed by and had a quick sniff before heading off for the day. What a sight!

Saving northern white rhinos with new technology?

This 5 October 2019 video says about itself:

Planet SOS: New technology can save rare rhino

Scientists are developing a robotic tool which can save one of the world’s rarest creatures.

They say an unprecedented wave of wildlife extinction is underway because of global warming, a loss of habitat and poaching.

They are trying to save some critically-endangered species, including the Northern White Rhino, which has been hunted to obliteration.

The project aims to produce a self-sustaining herd of Northern White Rhinos, first in captivity and then returned to the wild in Africa.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports from Escondido city in California.

Woolly rhinos and ice ages, video

This 30 May 2019 video says about itself:

The History of Climate Cycles (and the Woolly Rhino) Explained

Throughout the Pleistocene Epoch, the range of the woolly rhino grew and shrank in sync with global climate. So what caused the climate — and the range of the woolly rhino — to cycle back and forth between such extremes?

Giant rhinoceros survived Ice Age longer than thought

This 22 March 2018 video says about itself:

Elasmotherium Was A Mammoth Sized Rhino from Eurasia

Elasmotherium (“Thin Plate Beast”), also known as the Siberian Unicorn or Steppe Rhinoceros, is an extinct genus of rhinoceros endemic to Eurasia. It lived during the Late Pliocene through the Pleistocene, documented from 2.6 Ma to as late as 29,000 years ago in the Late Pleistocene.

In March 2016, the discovery of a skull in Kazakhstan granted a new estimated time period to when Elasmotherium roamed the earth. The prior estimate was 350,000 years ago, now being reduced to 29,000 years ago. Three species are recognised (some say four).

The best known, E. sibiricum was the size of a mammoth and is thought to have borne a large, thick horn on its forehead. The main difference from other rhinos was the large domed protuberance on the forehead, which was probably a 1.5 meter long and thick horn. Theories about the function of this horn include defense, attracting mates, driving away competitors, sweeping snow from the grass in winter and digging for water and plant roots.

Like all rhinoceroses, elasmotheres were herbivorous. Elasmotherium was a grazer as apparent from tooth wear and morphology. This animal specialized in feeding on grass and underground parts of plants, coastal rivers and lakes, such as highly starchy rhizomes of sedges, cattail and reed.

Unlike any others, its high-crowned molars were ever-growing. Its legs were longer than those of other rhinos and were adapted for galloping, giving it a horse-like gait.

Elasmotherium was the largest member of the family of rhinos that lived from the Pliocene to Pleistocene epochs. It was 6 metres long, 2.5 metres in height and weigh up to 5 tons.

E. caucasicum … reached at least 5 m (16 ft) in body length with an estimated mass of 3.6–4.5 tonnes (4–5 short tons), based on isolated molars that significantly exceed those known from the Siberian species.

Elasmotherium legs are sufficiently like those of the White Rhino to hypothesize a similar gait even though Elasmotherium weighed 4.5-5 ton. Various theories of Elasmothere morphology, nutrition and habits have been the cause of wide variation in reconstruction. Some show the beast trotting like a horse with a horn; others hunched over with head to the ground, like a bison, and still others immersed in swamps like a hippopotamus.

The largest of all the prehistoric rhinoceroses of the Pleistocene epoch, Elasmotherium was a truly massive piece of megafauna, and all the more imposing thanks to its thick, shaggy coat of fur (this mammal was … related to Coelodonta, also known as the “woolly rhino“) and the huge horn on the end of its snout. This horn, which was made of keratin (the same protein as human hair), may have reached five or six feet in length—and if Elasmotherium survived into historical times, it’s possible that early humans glimpsing this huge, strange beast may have been inspired to create the legend of the unicorn.

From Nature Ecology and Evolution, 26 November 2018:

Evolution and extinction of the giant rhinoceros Elasmotherium sibiricum sheds light on late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions


Understanding extinction events requires an unbiased record of the chronology and ecology of victims and survivors.

The rhinoceros Elasmotherium sibiricum, known as the ‘Siberian unicorn’, was believed to have gone extinct around 200,000 years ago—well before the late Quaternary megafaunal extinction event.

However, no absolute dating, genetic analysis or quantitative ecological assessment of this species has been undertaken. Here, we show, by accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating of 23 individuals, including cross-validation by compound-specific analysis, that E. sibiricum survived in Eastern Europe and Central Asia until at least 39,000 years ago, corroborating a wave of megafaunal turnover before the Last Glacial Maximum in Eurasia, in addition to the better-known late-glacial event.

Stable isotope data indicate a dry steppe niche for E. sibiricum and, together with morphology, a highly specialized diet that probably contributed to its extinction.

We further demonstrate, with DNA sequencing data, a very deep phylogenetic split between the subfamilies Elasmotheriinae and Rhinocerotinae that includes all the living rhinoceroses, settling a debate based on fossil evidence and confirming that the two lineages had diverged by the Eocene. As the last surviving member of the Elasmotheriinae, the demise of the ‘Siberian unicorn’ marked the extinction of this subfamily.

Human ancestors in the Philippines, 700,000 years ago

This 2 May 2018 video is called Ancient butchered rhino suggests humans lived in the Philippines 700,000 years ago.

By Bruce Bower, 1:00pm, May 2, 2018:

Butchered rhino bones place hominids in the Philippines 700,000 years ago

The earliest known evidence had been a 66,700-year-old human toe bone

Stone tools strewn among rhinoceros bones indicate that hominids had reached the Philippines by around 709,000 years ago, scientists report online May 2 in Nature.

Stone Age Homo species who crossed the ocean from mainland Asia to the Philippines — possibly aboard uprooted trees or some kind of watercraft — may also have moved to islands farther south, the team proposes. Evidence of ancient hominids has been found on some Indonesian islands, including individuals’ fossil remains on Flores (SN: 7/9/16, p. 6) and ancient stone tools on Sulawesi (SN: 2/6/16, p. 7).

But researchers hadn’t found old enough evidence of hominids in the Philippines to suggest such a journey — until now. At an excavation site in the landlocked northern region of Kalinga in the Philippines, more than 400 animal bones have been discovered, including much of a rhino skeleton, and 57 stone artifacts. Cuts and pounding marks on 13 of the rhino bones resulted from meat and marrow removal, say bioarchaeologist Thomas Ingicco of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and colleagues. Other fossils came from brown deer, monitor lizards, freshwater turtles and extinct, elephant-like creatures called stegodons.

Measures of the decay and accumulation of radioactive elements in Kalinga sediment and an excavated rhino tooth suggest the fossils are roughly 709,000 years old, give or take about 68,000 years.

Previously, the earliest evidence of hominids in the Philippines came from a roughly 66,700-year-old human toe bone. It’s not known if the ancient individual who unwittingly donated the toe bone to science descended from Kalinga’s roughly 700,000-year-old rhino butchers or from a population that reached the Philippines later.