Scientists say unicorns weighing over 3500 kg once roamed the earth

Of a weight of 3.5 tons, with a scary horn, this prehistoric animal, known as the "Siberian unicorn", was wiped out more than 100,000 years ago.

Despite its extinction, cutting-edge research has shown that the beast shared the land with early modern humans until 35,000 years ago.

The ancient species of rhinoceros was known as Elasmotherium sibericum (Siberian unicorn), because of its extraordinary unique horn.

It was thought that he had disappeared between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago.

However, a "beautiful full skull" at the Natural History Museum has questioned the date of the presumed disappearance of this creature.

Professor Adrian Lister, a paleobiologist who studies evolution and extinction, said new research has revealed that the "pack ice giant" has survived much later than expected.

"We have dated a few specimens – such as the beautiful complete skull we have at the museum – and to our surprise, they arrived at less than 40,000 years ago," he said.

Professor Lister collaborated with other researchers from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Russia to obtain a total of 23 radiocarbon samples.

Using state-of-the-art methods, dating has shown that the species "has survived to at least 39 000 years, even up to 35 000 years".

The study also examined Siberian unicorn teeth to determine what the animals ate. The results confirmed that they were probably grazing on hard, dry grasses.

The Natural History Museum stated that the last days of the ancient rhinoceros species "were shared with modern Neanderthal men and men".

He added: "It is unlikely, however, that the presence of human beings has been a cause of extinction.

"Instead, it is more likely that the dramatic fluctuations in climate over this period, combined with the specialized grazing lifestyle and low rhinoceros natural population, have pushed the species to the limit. "

Australian researchers have examined the DNA of some of the fossils – the first time that a DNA was found in E. sibiricum – and discovered the ancient rhinoceros "separated from the modern rhinoceros group there is about 43 million years old.

This makes the Siberian unicorn "the last species of a very distinctive and ancient lineage".

Today, there are only five species of rhinoceros left, although there have been up to 250 species at different times.

This story originally appeared in The Sun and has been republished here with permission.

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