Paraceratherium was a rhinoceros that lived around 20 million years ago. Standing tall with a longer neck, it doesn't much resemble a modern rhinoceros. The 15-20 ton giant is the subject of a new book by paleontologist Donald Prothero called Rhinoceros Giants. But it's not just about Paraceratherium. It's also a book about paleontologists finding evidence of Paraceratherium.
For more than the first half of the book, in fact, Paraceratherium only appears as scattered fragments that puzzled and inspired successive generations of paleontologists. Prothero recounts the lives of fossil mammal researchers such as Walter Granger, Henry Guy Ellcock Pilgrim, Clive Forster Cooper, and Zhou Ming-Zhen, among others, in detail before diving into the geological particulars of where Paraceratherium bones are found and where the giant fit in the wider rhino family tree. While a giant rhino without a horn might look odd compared to living species, Prothero points out that Paraceratherium belonged to a major and totally-extinct group of rhinos, and that most fossil rhinos don’t show any evidence of horns at all. Modern rhinos might look prehistoric, but they’re actually quite different from their varied predecessors.