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Back in Black

The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is the smaller of the two African rhinoceros species, but still stands just shy of 6ft tall at the shoulders. These mammals are not only massive, but quite fast. Weighing in at up to 1.5 tons, they can still reach a top speed of 34 mph while running on just their toes [1]!

As herbivores, the rhino intakes around 120 pounds of foliage, and does so by browsing on woody plants and shrubs [2]. They’re specially equipped with a notably pointed upper lip that’s used to pull the leaves off the branches and into their mouths.

The black rhinoceros sports two large horns on its head, in contrast to the white rhinoceros which bares only a single horn. In the wild these horns are used to ward off encroaching animals and defend territory. Large horns therefore are very desirable when searching for a mate.

"Black rhino" by Paul Albertella [CC BY 2.0], via

Black rhino numbers once soared into the hundreds of thousands across sub-saharan Africa, but during the early 1990’s these numbers dwindled down to as low as 2,500 due to unregulated hunting and poaching [3]. This was an immense 98% drop in population. However, the numbers have been on the rise, with wild black rhinoceros population hovering around 5,500 [4]. The IUCN lists these beautiful animals as critically endangered. Read more about these animals here.

Today, we release a chromosome-length genome assembly of the black rhinoceros. This is a $1K genome assembly with contig N50 = 87 Kb and scaffold N50 = 59 Mb. See Dudchenko et al., 2018 for details on the procedure. Thank you to SeaWorld for providing the sample for this assembly. This is the third rhinoceros in our collection, and completes the assembly of both African rhinoceros species, the other being the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). Additionally, we have previously shared the assembly of the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicorns).


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