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What Do We Know about the Origin of Rhinos?

Photo: Ceratotherium simum, by Byrdyak, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s note: We are delighted to direct readers to a new paper by geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, “Origin and Evolution of the Rhinos (Family Rhinocerotidae): What Do We Really Know?” What follows is the paper’s Abstract:

Some rhinoceroses, including the square-lipped Ceratotherium simum of the African savanna, weigh more than three tons and thus represent the largest land mammals after the African elephant. After an extensive revision of the family Rhinocerotidae, presently some 21 genera have been found to be valid. Most of those, however, do not exist anymore. Just four genera are still extant. 

Although they are not the handsomest or most graceful creatures in the animal kingdom, the Rhinocerotoidea (superfamily) are a fascinating group for research due not only to an extraordinarily rich fossil record1 but also to many striking anatomical and physiological characteristics. 

Intriguingly, according to the geological time table, many of the past and present forms have lived contemporaneously for millions of years. Also, all families and genera of the rhinocerotoids appear abruptly in the fossil record. Contrary to Darwinian expectations, none of them is linked to any other by a series of “infinitesimally small changes,” “infinitesimally slight variations,” “insensibly fine steps,” etc. Hence, the fossil record is in full agreement with the statement of the eminent evolutionary biologist Donald R. Prothero, paleontologist and leading rhino researcher, that “the most striking thing about the overall pattern of rhinocerotid evolution is that of stasis.” Even at the species level he notes that “although some limited examples of gradual change can be documented in the rhinocerotids, the overwhelming pattern is one of stable species which show no measurable change over long periods of time, consistent with the predictions of Eldredge and Gould (1972).”2

So, what do we really know about their origin and evolution? The entire fossil series of the family of the rhinos starts with a rhinoceros (Teletaceras) and ends with rhinoceroses. The viewpoint of natural selection of random or accidental or haphazard DNA mutations can be — except for microevolution — excluded for many scientific reasons, as will be shown below. Intelligent design is definitely the scientifically superior explanation. 


  1. According to the Paleobiology Database (PBDB) (2023) for the superfamily: “Collections (2419 total)” and for the family Rhinocerotidae alone “Collections (1892 total)”. Let’s take for a comparison the family Elephantidae, showing an “excellent”, “very complete” fossil record, displaying an “enormous quantity of fossil bones”: “Collections (1316 total).” (Numbers of PBDB all retrieved 10 June 2023.) For the fossil record of the elephants, see also: http://www.weloennig.de/ElephantEvolution.Critique.pdf.
  2. Emphasis added.