Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers from the University of Montpellier, France, said the fossil, found in Turkey, is that of a large two-horned rhino common in the Eastern Mediterranean region during that period.
Unusual features of the preserved skull suggest the animal died in extremely high temperatures in a volcanic flow similar to that of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy in A.D. 79.
"The body was baked under a temperature approximating 400 degrees centigrade (750 degrees Fahrenheit), then dismembered within the pyroclastic flow, and the skull separated from body," the researchers led by Pierre-Olivier Antoine wrote.
Organic matter near an active volcanic eruption is usually quickly destroyed by the high temperatures making a fossil such as the prehistoric rhino extremely rare, they said.
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