Unicorns are real (though not as colorful as we imagine) and they lived at the same time as modern humans.
Ancient rhinoceros species Elasmotherium sibiricum, known as the Siberian unicorn, would long have died between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago.
Improved fossil dating, however, now suggests that it has survived to at least 39,000 years, probably sharing Eurasia with modern humans and Neanderthals.
At any point in history, there were up to 250 different rhinoceros species that roamed the Earth. Perhaps the most impressive among them: Elasmotherium sibiricum.
Weighing nearly 4 tons (about the size of a compact SUV), he lived in the Eurasian grasslands, ranging from southwestern Russia and from Ukraine to Kazakhstan and Siberia.
These so-called unicorns (from the name of the big horn that she may have once worn) have finally disappeared, the probable circumstances having been known only recently.
"We dated some specimens … and to our surprise, they came in less than 40,000 years ago," said Adrian Lister, research scientist specializing in merit at the Natural History Museum in London, in a statement.
In partnership with researchers from the Netherlands and Russia, Lister & Co. is found with 23 dated fossils, all of which have confirmed "very strongly" that this species has survived to at least 39,000 years.
"Maybe 35,000 years ago," Lister added.
Their results were published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
A true giant of glaciation, E. sibiricum weighed up to twice as much as a modern rhinoceros. Far-away parents, however, share at least one thing in common: vegetarianism.
According to Lister, the anatomy of the Siberian unicorn – especially her "unusual teeth" – suggests that she lived in open plains, grazing almost entirely on hard, dry grass.
Based on live mammals with horny noses and ElasmotheriumThe researchers think that "the geographical area could be a rather rare animal".
According to the Museum, this natural scarcity, coupled with dramatic climatic fluctuations, may have been one of the factors that drove it to extinction – at about the same time Neanderthals were dying.
It is unlikely however that they were hunted to extinction.
"There is no evidence at all that people have had anything to do with that," Lister said. "You can not exclude it, but we do not have any archaeological associations of this animal with people in any way on the sites known to date.
"The environment in which the animal was living seems to have changed considerably at about the same time that it disappeared," he continued. "So it's quite plausible that if it's a rare animal initially, its risk of extinction is relatively high."
Australian scientists have, for the first time, extracted DNA from E sibiricum, helping to clarify where the Siberian unicorn and other members of the Elastrotherium kind adapted on the rhinoceros evolutionary tree.
It turns out that the old group separated from the modern sect about 43 million years ago, making the Siberian unicorn the last of a very long line. distinctive and ancient.
More coverage on Geek.com: