Giant prehistoric "unicorns" once wandered around the prairies of Central Asia. New research has shown that these so-called Siberian Unicorns lived much longer than they thought and probably did not disappear until "only" for 39,000 years.
As long as the adult man, the weight of five cows in milk and a hump that would make Quasimodo envious: the Siberian unicorn was a beast of a beast. In prehistoric times, this animal resembled rhinoceros wandering along the prairies of Central Asia in the area between today's Ukraine and China. That is, until they disappear suddenly.
Later he disappeared
New research has shown that this happened much later than it has been believed for a long time. An international team of researchers from Leiden, Groningen, Russia, the UK and Australia has found that this animal still has 39 000 years in the country. They reached this conclusion based on carbon dating and investigation of the remains of 25 such unicorns. Until recently, it was assumed that the Siberian unicorn died 260,000 years earlier. This new dating makes it very likely that the modern man has seen a powerful Siberian unicorn.
"This new research dates back to the extinction of the Siberian unicorn at exactly the same time as many other large mammals," says Thijs van Kolfschoten, an Emeritus Professor of Archeology at Leiden University.
"About 40,000 years ago, the country underwent severe climate fluctuations, which also caused permanent changes in vegetation, and many large herbivores were unable to adapt to other diets.
This hypothesis is also supported by research by PhD research at Leiden Margot Kuitems. In isotope research he found that the unicorn has very high and stable nitrogen isotope ratios in his bones and teeth. This may indicate that their diet consisted mainly of plants growing underground such as beetroot. This could explain why the teeth of Siberian unicorns were still growing: feeding on nuts meant that they also absorbed plenty of sand, which probably circled very quickly.
It is related to a modern rhinoceros
Scientists have also found, using DNA research, that Siberian unicorns were separated from the rhino species that are present on Earth today. The Elasmotheriinae and Rhinocerotinae subspecies developed from the Eocene period – 56 to 34 million years ago – along two separate branches. The extinction of the Siberian unicorn meant the disappearance of the last representative Elasmotheriinaesubgroups on the ground.
Header Image – Heinrich Harder