The finding of a skull has confirmed that these animals lived until around 29,000 years ago
Legendary creatures such as mermaids, elves, fairies and orcs have provided much material for fantasy and science fiction. However, unicorns, those mythical creatures that were initially described as white horses with antelope legs, a goatee and a single horn in the center of the skull, apparently did exist.
The real unicorn is far from the panache of "My Little Pony and Friends" or the stylized versions of Harry Potter: it is more like a cross between rhinoceros and woolly mammoth and the scientific name of this species of mammal is Elasmotherium sibiricum.
Scientists described this animal decades ago and it was believed that it walked the Siberian savannas about 350 thousand years ago. However, a finding made in Kazakhstan by researchers from the University of Tomsk determined that only 29,000 years ago in the Pavlodar region wandered this huge herbivore. The discovery of a very well preserved skull and the radiocarbon analysis carried out by the team led by Andrey Shpanski suggest that in that region, south of western Siberia, there may have been a great refuge that allowed this species to last a few thousand years more than in the rest of the Asian continent.
According to the conclusions reached by the scientists, after a deep analysis of the skull found, it would belong to an adult male that probably wandered through the Siberian steppes, preferably eating grasses. Its possible appearance, as reconstructed from the skull, is that of an animal that was approximately two meters tall by four and a half meters long, weighing approximately four and a half tons, covered with a thick layer of long hair similar to that of the mammoth or the woolly rhinoceros. The conformation of its jaw and its teeth, similar to those of the modern horse, leave no doubt that it was a species that fed mainly on tender grasses present in the territories of the Asian plains.
**Paleontological studies help us understand what causes extinction, which can lead us to find new ways to protect endangered species**
The finding, according to paleontologist and researcher Andrey Shpanski, leader of the team that discovered this fossil, "allows us to study in depth the environmental factors that have an important role in the extinction of this particular species", since it suggests possible routes that this huge mammal followed, the long distances of migration and the last places where its extinction was avoided for several thousand years. Paleontological studies aim to determine the possible causes of the extinction of species that disappeared from the earth due to environmental factors, in such a way that, when establishing these causes, valuable information can be obtained about environmental factors on which the species human can make informed, timely and accurate decisions to avoid the extinction of many others.
Latin American Post | Alberto Castaño
Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda