Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Precursor of European rhinos found in Vietnam


A team of scientists from the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment Tübingen was able to recover fossils of two previously unknown mammal species that lived about 37 million years ago.

The newly described mammals show a surprisingly close relationship to prehistoric species known from fossil sites in Europe.

Partial cranium of Bakalovia orientalis

Foto: Senckenberg

The location: The open lignite-mining Na Duong in Vietnam. Here, the team of scientists was also able to make a series of further discoveries, including three species of fossilized crocodiles and several new turtles.

Southeast Asia is considered a particularly species-rich region, even in prehistoric times – a so-called hotspot of biodiversity. For several decades now, scientists have postulated close relationships that existed in the late Eocene (ca. 38-34 million years ago) between the faunas of that region and Europe. The recent findings by the research team under leadership of Prof. Dr. Madelaine Böhme serve as proof that some European species originated in Southeast Asia.

Rhinoceros and Coal beast

One of the newly described mammals is a rhinoceros, Epiaceratherium naduongense. The anatomy of the fossil teeth allows identifying this rhinoceros as a potential forest dweller. The other species is the so-called “Coal Beast”, Bakalovia orientalis.

This pig-like ungulate, closely related to hippos, led a semi-aquatic lifestyle, i.e., it preferred the water close to bank areas. At that time, Na Duong was a forested swampland surrounding Lake Rhin Chua. The mammals’ remains bear signs of crocodile attacks. Indeed, the excavation site at Na Duong contains the fossilized remains of crocodiles up to 6 meters in length.

From island to island toward Europe

In the Late Eocene, the European mainland presented a very different aspect than it does today. Italy and Bulgaria were part of an island chain in the Tethys Sea. These islands spanned several thousand kilometers between what later became Europe and India. European fossils from that epoch are very rare, since little material has been preserved due to the folding of mountains and erosion. Yet, the two new species had relatives in this area:

A rhinoceros Epiaceratherium bolcense closely resembling the one from Na Duong was found in Italy (Monteviale). Fossil finds of Epiaceratherium magnum from Bavaria indicate that rhinoceroses reached continental Europe no later than 33 million years ago and colonized the landmass. The coal beast did not quite make it to the European mainland – but it certainly reached the so-called Balkano-Rhodopen Island: a fossilized coal beast very similar to Bakalovia orientalis was unearthed in present-day Bulgaria.

Research among coal dust and excavators

The open mining pit Na Duong is still active. While the scientists conduct their excavations, lignite is being extracted nearby. Since 2008, the international research team around Prof. Dr. Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP) at the University of Tübingen has studied the prehistoric ecosystem and the fossils of Na Duong in Vietnam.

This research revealed that the lignite seams contained a globally important fossil deposit from the Paleogene interval. Originally, scientists had expected to find fossils from the younger Cenozoic (up to 23 million years ago) at the site.

This ecosystem, which the scientists from Vietnam, France and Germany explore and reconstruct in ever more detail from one excavation season to the next, is a 37 million year-old swamp forest in a tropical to subtropical climate. Up to 600 trees grew there per hectare, and their crowns reached heights of up to 35 meters.


Böhme, M. et al.; Na Duong (northern Vietnam) – an exceptional window into Eocene ecosystems from Southeast Asia, Zitteliana A 53, 120 A 5 (2014).


Prof. Dr. Madeleine Böhme
Department of Geosciences
Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment
(currently away on expedition)

Press Offices

Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung
Regina Bartel
Phone 069- 7542 1434

University of Tübingen
University Communications
Antje Karbe
Phone 07071 – 29-76789

Weitere Informationen:

Dr. Sören Dürr | Senckenberg

Further reports about: Eocene Precursor Senckenberg crocodiles ecosystem fossils rhinos species

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Rapid plankton growth in ocean seen as sign of carbon dioxide loading
27.11.2015 | Johns Hopkins University

nachricht Revealing glacier flow with animated satellite images
26.11.2015 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>