- A huge hairy rhinoceros known as the "Siberian unicorn" lived much longer than expected.
- A new study revealed that the beast had survived long enough to walk on Earth with humans.
- Scientists say that a climate change has probably wiped out the species.
A massive, hairy rhinoceros dubbed "the Siberian unicorn" lived much longer than expected and traveled the Earth with humans, according to a new study.
Thanks to the radiocarbon dating of 23 rhinoceros specimens, scientists were able to find the four-tonne beast – not exactly what you describe when you think of a unicorn – survived in Eastern Europe and Central Asia until 39,000 years ago., about the same time as modern humans and Neanderthals, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Previously, scientists thought that the rhino, known scientifically as Elasmotherium sibericum, was extinguished about 200,000 years ago.
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Another key finding is that the extinction of the Siberian unicorn was not caused by the human hunt or the last ice age, which began about 25,000 years ago. Instead, a subtle climate change was its end.
As the Earth began to warm up and come out of an ice age that dates back to about 40,000 years, grassland size began to decline and the rhino, which suffered exclusively from hard, dry grass, was probably threatened with extinction.
"Parents such as the woolly rhino have always eaten a more balanced range of plants and have been far less affected by a habitat change," wrote the study's authors.
Today, only five of the 250 known rhinoceros species remain, Of which three are critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Very few rhinos live outside national parks and reserves because of poaching and habitat loss.
Scientists believe that studying the extinction of the Siberian unicorn could help them save the remaining rhinos whose faces are on the brink of extinction because of their stubbornness in choosing a habitat.
"Any change in their environment is a danger to them"Adrian Lister, who led the study, told BBC News, and of course what we also learned from the fossil record is that once the species is gone, it's over she disappears for good. "