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Animal ID Challenge - Black Rhinoceros


Black or White Rhinoceros?
Animal ID Challenge - Black Rhinoceros

Pictured above: (A) black rhinoceros, (B) black rhinoceros, and (C) white rhinoceros.

Photos courtesy Shutterstock.

The animal in the photo (A) is a black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis).

One of the easiest ways to distinguish between a black and a white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is to examine the shape of the rhino's upper lip. The upper lip of a black rhinoceros is pointed or hooked. This hooked lip is apparent in photo (A) and is also detailed in photo (B), which shows a side-view of a black rhinoceros' lip. Notice how the upper lip curls downward to a point at the front of the black rhino's mouth. The upper lip of a white rhinoceros does not come to a point. Instead it is wide and square in shape, as in photo (C) which shows a white rhinoceros.

The difference between the two species' upper lips reflects their distinct feeding habits. Black rhinoceros are browsers—they feed on woody vegetation, shrubs, and leaves. They use their muscular, prehensile lip to grasp food and pull it from the ground. For this reason, a pointed upper lip gives them the dexterity needed to pluck greenery from the soil.

White rhinoceroses are grazers—they feed on grasses. As they eat, they use their square lip to rip wide mouthfuls of grass from the ground.

Lip shape is not the only characteristic that can be used to differentiate between black and white rhinos. The two species also differ in size and profile. Black rhinos are smaller than white rhinos and they have a smaller head which they hold higher and in a horizontal orientation. White rhinos are bulkier in build and have a comparitively larger head which they hold lower to the ground.

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