When you were a child, did you ever wonder if unicorns were real? Maybe you did, but chances are your parents shut that down pretty fast. But it turns out they might have been wrong, for in prehistoric Siberia, there were indeed unicorns. However, the huge shaggy Siberian Unicorn looked more like a rhino than the creatures from “My Little Pony”. According to early descriptions, this unicorn was over six feet tall and weighed about 4 tonnes, closer in size to a woolly mammoth than what you saw in that poster on your sister’s wall.
For decades, scientists have estimated that the Siberian Unicorn had died out some 350,000 years ago. However, a skull was recently found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan that researchers from Tomsk State University have dated to around 29,000 years ago, completely changing the game on this. The size and condition of the skull hints that this was most likely a very old male, although its cause of death remains unknown.
This discovery has led to researchers wondering how the unicorn lasted so much longer than those many who died hundreds of thousands of years earlier. One member of the research team has suggested that southwestern Siberia was a refugium where the Siberian Unicorn and other animals soldiered on. There’s also a possibility that it could migrate and dwell in more southern areas. The team has hoped that the find will lead to a better insight on how environmental factors played a role in the creature’s extinction, since understanding what allowed this species to last so long will help make more informed choices about the future of current species.
Numerous prehistoric mammals were able to last an incredibly long time in the remote and sparsely-populated Siberia. Woolly mammoths, for instance, existed on Wrangel Island as recently as 2,000 BC, a full 6,000 years longer than anywhere else. It would be interesting to see what other prehistoric creatures lasted in Siberia, since I’m sure mammoths and unicorns weren’t the only ones.
If you’d like to learn more, you can click here, or listen to this song that theorizes why unicorns aren’t around today: