April 13, 2024

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Unicorns have been around, but they're definitely not what you think!

Unicorns have been around, but they're definitely not what you think!

Research by Australian scientists shows that “unicorns”, in and out of quotes, were animals that lived at the same time as humans and have disappeared due to climate change. The giant shaggy Ice Age rhinoceros (Elasmotherium sibiricum), known as the Siberian rhinoceros because of its uniquely large horn, is thought to have become extinct about 200,000 years ago.

This 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 published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, researchers reported that the Siberian rhino became extinct only 36,000 years ago. The study found that the most likely cause of the extinction of this species is the decline of grasslands due to climate change, rather than human impact.

The last days of the Siberian rhino were shared with early modern humans and Neanderthals

Siberian rhinos, weighing up to 3.5 tons and with one huge horn, roam the steppes of Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northern China. The Australian Center for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide has analyzed the DNA of a Siberian rhino for the first time and found that the giant animal was the last surviving member of a unique family of rhinos.

The “suspicious” murals from the places where he lived give the impression that not only did he live at the same time as humans, but his likeness was captured by the Homo sapiens he encountered.

In parallel development with our famous unicorn

“The ancestors of the Siberian rhinoceros separated from the ancestors of all living rhinos 40 million years ago,” said co-author and ACAD researcher Dr. Keren Mitchell. “This makes the Siberian rhino and the African white rhino the more distant cousins ​​of humans relative to the apes.”

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The latest genetic evidence overturns previous studies that showed the Siberian rhinoceros was very close to the extinct woolly rhinoceros and the living Sumatran rhinoceros. The researchers also dated 23 bone samples from Siberian rhinos, confirming that the species lived until at least 39,000 years ago and perhaps as long as 35,000 years ago.

The last days of the Siberian rhino were shared with early modern humans and Neanderthals. Professor Chris Turney, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales, said: “It is unlikely that the presence of humans was the cause of the extinction.” “The Siberian rhino appears to have been severely affected by the onset of the Eurasian Ice Age, when falling temperatures increased the amount of frozen ground, reducing the hard, dry grasses on which they lived and affecting populations over a huge area.” .

Artist's depiction of a Siberian rhinoceros based on scientific evidence.

They lived at the same time, but the Siberian rhinoceros said goodbye to them first

Other species that shared the Siberian rhino's habitat were either less dependent on grass, such as the woolly rhino, or more flexible in their diet, such as the saiga antelope, and escaped the fate of the Siberian rhino, although the woolly rhino eventually disappeared after 20 A thousand years. Later.

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Rhinoceros and Elasmotherium likely split into two separate groups about 35 million years ago. Revealing evidence shows that like rhinoceros, E. sibiricum had a keratinous horn, and was circumferential. The problem with keratin is that it does not keep well and decomposes with the animal when it dies.

However, when scientists analyzed the skeletal remains of E. sibiricum, they noticed its massive forehead domes and powerful spine structures. While the diameter of the dome suggests a broad base for the horn, the structure of the creature's spine equipped it to bear significant weight. Taking both features into account, the horn of E. sibiricum was estimated to be about 10 feet long—about twice longer than the longest recorded rhinoceros horn!