A new radiometric study on the Siberian unicorn fossils has revealed that the prehistoric animal endured for a couple of thousand years longer than scientists previously thought. Named Elasmotherium sibiricum, the creature was believed to have gone extinct about 350,000 years ago.
It appears that lately several fossils of ancient animals were wrongly dated since the creatures lived much longer than previous studies have proven. The same goes for the Siberian unicorn, a hairy rhinoceros-like animal.
Scientists from the Tomsk State University in Russia have taken a look at a newly discovered fossil in the form of a skull of the unicorn. The remain was found in Kazakhstan along with several other fossils belonging to the prehistoric bison and mammoths. Released in the American Journal of Applied Science, the results showed that the timing of the creature was different from the one set up in the past.
The researchers believe the error must have happened because the Siberian unicorns could have migrated to a more gentle microclimate. Otherwise, the fossil might be part of the last legacy of another population that died later than its peers. According to paleontologist Andrey Shpanski from Tomsk University,
“Most likely, in the south of Western Siberia it was a refúgium, where this rhino had preserved the longest in comparison with the rest of its range.”
Siberian unicorns used to be huge animals reaching fifteen feet in length and a weight between eight thousand and ten thousand pounds. While they looked much alike to the modern rhino with the specific horn mounted on their heads, the unicorns were larger than the African forest elephant or the Asian elephant. The creatures used to live in Kazakhstan and eastern Russia, their territory extending from the river Don to Mongolia.
Fossils of the Siberian unicorn have been discovered at various sites which pointed their extinction at about 350,000 years ago. However, the newly discovered skull found near Kozhamzhar village in Kazakhstan’s Pavlodar region has pushed this date forward.
Other details about the fossil included the fact that it used to belong to a massive male that died about 29,000 years ago. The discovery complicates and challenges previous findings, but also changes the estimated dates for other fossils that are dated in relation to one another. The researchers believe radiocarbon is the key to solving this issue.
By correctly dating a fossil, we not only create an accurate timeline of Earth’s history but can also explain many phenomenons that take place in the past, as well as predict future ones.
Image Source: Earth Archives