New research by Australian scientists shows that “unicorns” lived alongside humans and were only made extinct by climate change.
The giant, shaggy Ice Age rhinoceros (Elasmotherium sibiricum), known as the Siberian unicorn because of its extraordinary large single horn, was thought to have become extinct some 200,000 years ago.
That theory has been debunked by an international team of researchers from Adelaide and Sydney, as well as London, the Netherlands, and Russia.
In a study paper, published Tuesday morning in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, researchers say the Siberian unicorn became extinct only 36,000 years ago.
The study found the most likely cause of the species’ demise was a reduction in grassland due to climate change, rather than the impact of humans.
Weighing up to 3.5 tonnes with a single enormous horn, the Siberian unicorn roamed the steppes of Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Northern China.
The University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), analysed the DNA of the Siberian unicorn for the first time and found the giant animal was the last surviving member of a unique family of rhinos.
“The ancestors of the Siberian unicorn split from the ancestors of all living rhinos over 40 million years ago,” co-author and ACAD researcher Dr Kieren Mitchell said.
“That makes the Siberian unicorn and the African white rhino even more distant cousins than humans are to monkeys.”
This new genetic evidence overturns previous studies that suggested the Siberian unicorn was a very close relative of the extinct woolly rhino and living Sumatran rhino.
Researchers also dated 23 Siberian unicorn bone specimens, confirming that the species survived until at least 39,000 years ago, and possibly as late as 35,000 years ago. The Siberian unicorn’s final days were shared with early modern humans and Neanderthals.
“It is unlikely that the presence of humans was the cause of extinction,” Professor Chris Turney, climate scientist at the University of New South Wales said.
“The Siberian unicorn appears to have been badly hit by the start of the ice age in Eurasia when a precipitous fall in temperature led to an increase in the amount of frozen ground, reducing the tough, dry grasses it lived on and impacting populations over a vast region.”
Other species that shared the Siberian unicorn’s environment were either less reliant on grass – like the woolly rhino – or more flexible in their diet – like the saiga antelope – and escaped the Siberian unicorn’s fate, though the woolly rhino eventually became extinct 20,000 years later.
Ronald D Danielson says
Actually they’re quite common around these parts, ya know! Me blinking dog dragged one home just the other day and it’s a awful fuss to get rid of the stinkin thing … horn fetched a bit o some for the pocket, but it weren’t worth the hassle and it’s gonna take some time to get the stench from the cellar!
Oh, darn, you spoiled my fun, I was going to say something like that about the horn. Actually, I guess you could retire on the money from that, if it would go for the same price per pound as today’s rhinoceros. And it would probably go for more than that, being so big. Might be worth a trip to Siberia.
Claude Roy says
J’aime. je veux les informations en Français
Nothing like a unicorn but very like a rhino.
It’s rhinocorn. It identifies as a transpecies.
Robert Meyer says
Clone it! Bring it back!
That would be cool
Scot A. Westlake Sr. says
I LOVE All your shows!!!
Looks like a giant sloth to me
I’ve always wondered what scripture meant when it mentioned unicorns. They’re described as being powerful and unable to control. By the looks of this, I can understand now. With that being said, people in Old Testament times were familiar with these animals so I doubt they died 38,000 years ago. Who comes up with these numbers anyway?
People don’t come up with carbon dating. In the earths poles there is a pattern of ice forming a new layer each year, you can count the layers like the rings of a tree. There are millions of layers. Carbon dating is taking a sample of the fossil to check the carbon content in the atmosphere of its time, and matching it with the carbon content of the ice layer it corresponds with.
Patsy Carter says
This New Earth notion is absolutely unscientific and therefore ridiculous. Religious faith does NOT require blind acceptance of pure hogwash!
Patsy Carter says
I can relate to that. Ardent lefty retired alone to TinyTown in blood-red state. An exercise in survival!
The horn shown must be a reconstruction. Per Wikipedia “A 2021 study challenges assumptions of Elasmotherium [the genus of which the Siberian Rhinoceros is a species] having had a horn by comparing its cranial dome and neck musculature to those of modern rhinos. The study finds that both are ill-suited for a large horn and more likely are indicative of a smaller horn.” Plus, since Rhino horns are made of keratin, they don;t usually fossilize. If the animal shown was frozen, then why the results of the 2021 study?
Борис Митяшин says
А найдены ли какие-нибудь артефакты? Сам рог на фотографии подлинный?