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Growing Pains: Larger Rhinos Suffer from Decreased Bone Health, Researchers Say

Feb 10, 2016 02:41 PM EST
As rhinos evolved and grew bigger in size they became more susceptible to bone diseases.
(Photo : Flickr: Ted)

As rhinos evolve and increase in size, their bones endure some serious growing pains to continually support their massive and active bodies. A new study from the Universities of Chicago and Oregon examines the significant changes in rhino bone health over the past 50 million years. 

Bone degradation, inflammation or infection, for example, are generally good indicators of bone health. In the latest study, researchers found signs of all three symptoms in the bones of many extinct North American and living African and Asian rhino species, according to a news release. This sparked their curiosity about the relationship between animal size, bone health and function along an evolutionary time scale.

To learn more researchers analyzed the bone health of six extinct and one living rhinoceros species. They also investigated how the animals' bone structure and total body mass changed over the past 50 million years. Their study revealed that bone diseases rapidly increased from 28 percent to between 65 and 80 percent as new species evolved. Furthermore, bone health significantly decreased as body mass increased. (Scroll to read more...)

Bone Health
(Photo : Kelsey Stilson et al./University of Chicago)
Bone Degradation

Researchers suggest their findings may help predict the long-term bone health of hoofed animals, and possible even humans. Their study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.  

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