Rhinos originated in North America 55–50 million years ago, and were common in Florida until their extinction ~5 million years ago. The extinct Floridaceras whitei occurs in the fossil record of both Florida and Panama.
Although we think of rhinos today as living in Africa and Asia, they once had a much wider distribution. In North America rhinos were common, particularly in the Miocene Epoch between about 25 to 7 million years ago. Rhinos got as far south in North American as Panama, as shown by this lower jaw. They were particularly common in Florida, including the mounted skeleton in the Fossil Hall as well as this lower jaw. The lower jaw from Florida is from an 8-million-year-old fossil site from near the town of Newberry just west of Gainesville. The large tusk-like tooth in the front of the lower jaw tells us this was a male individual. This particular kind of rhinoceros did not have a horn to protect itself — they had large tusks formed by their incisor teeth.
Collection Manager, Vertebrate Paleontology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Florida Rhino (Aphelops mutilus)
From Alachua Co., Florida
Lived ~8 million years ago
Panama Rhino (Floridaceras whitei)
Adult (cast) and Juvenile
From the Republic of Panama, Central America
Lived ~19 million years ago
Rhinos of the Past