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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Rhinocerotidae (rhinoceroses)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Paraxonia > Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulates)

The rhinoceros gets its name from the Greek meaning “nose-horn”. The rhino’s horn has no core and consists of a matted aggregation of hair-like keratin fibres, seated on a roughened area of the nasal region of the skull. Short stout limbs support the animal’s massive weight and the feet have 3 digits. Rhino’s have poor vision and are unable to see a motionless person at 30 m. However, their sense of smell is excellent. The two rhino species collectively count as one of Africa’s “Big Five”.

Species indigenous to southern Africa

Ceratotherium simum  (Square-lipped rhinoceros, White rhinoceros)

The  largest of the 5 existing rhino species and the third largest land mammal. The skin colour is grey, and there is a distinctive large hump on the neck. The common name “white” is actually derived from the Dutch for “wide”, an early description of the characteristic mouth shape. Square-lipped rhino cannot survive in arid habitats as they are dependant on upon water and drink almost daily. Male rhino’s are solitary and territorial.

Diceros bicornis (Hook-lipped rhinoceros, Black rhinoceros)

There is no large hump on the neck as in the Square-lipped rhino and the head is shorter, ending in the characteristic triangular prehensile “hooked” upper lip. This lip is ideal for grasping the branches and twigs of woody shrubs and trees.The Black rhino has a reputation for being bad-tempered and exhibiting unprovoked aggression.  Male rhino’s are solitary and territorial, while solitary female Black rhino will acquaint themselves with other females that share their home range.