|Project Leader: Danijela Popovic, PhD||Project period: 2022 - 2026|
|Project funding: OPUS 22, NCN|
The project leader is Adam Mickiewicz University Poznań, PI: dr hab. Kamilla Anna Pawłowska
The woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis Blumenbach 1799) is an extinct species of rhino that lived in the Pleistocene in Europe and Asia. Until ca 40 ka (thousand years) it was geographically widely distributed across Eurasia, including in Poland, preferring areas of cold steppe tundra. The woolly rhinoceros, along with a second megaherbivore—the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)—is a crucial element of megafauna, that is a more or less cold-adapted Pleistocene large mammals. From the perspective of research results on these taxa, knowledge of the history of these two species differs significantly, with a surprising underestimation in the woolly rhinoceros, given its abundance in the fossil record. Specifically, in contrast to the mammoth, little is known about the chronological data of the woolly rhinoceros in Central and Western Europe, including Poland. There are no available DNA results for the woolly rhinoceros from Poland, and there are very few from Europe. The rhinoceros’ presence in Europe is discontinuous, or else its continuity is unrecognized due to the lack of sufficiently high resolution radiocarbon dating results, as indicated by the presence of significant gaps in the radiocarbon dating results (e.g., at ca 40–34 ka BP (before present). The date of its extinction in Eurasia is placed around 14 ka BP, but the timing of extinction across various locations in continental area is poorly recognized. Hence it is not clear whether extinction was simultaneous or gradual in different parts of Europe. The timing leading up to the final extinction of the woolly rhinoceros in Eurasia is also important from the point of view of the size, condition and stability of its population, and touches on whether it was as genetically diverse as the population in Eastern Europe.
In proposed project, entitled ‘Unraveling the chronological, geographical, and taphonomic complexities of the occurrence of the woolly rhinoceros in the Pleistocene contexts of Poland (WOOLRHINOPOLI) and Europe’ we will strive to unravel these questions by examining the remains of the woolly rhinoceros from Poland, the North Sea, and selected European countries (Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Romania, Moldova, Russia). For this purpose, we plan to collect archive data and to scan the entire territory of Poland in search of sites with remains. Studies have been designed for taxonomic determination of remains, age and sex determination, measurements of bones and skulls
Laboratory of Paleogenetics and Conservation Genetics