It Turns Out Unicorns Were Real—And Terrifying!

Forget your sparkly pastel unicorns… there are no sugary latte mascots or My Little Ponies here! Instead, we’ve got the Siberian unicorn.

Siberian unicorn
BBC

Come to the Land of the Ice and Snow

Like everything about Siberia, the Siberian unicorn was metal AF. They lived through the most recent ice age alongside saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, and early humans.

Sadly, rising temperatures killed off the majestic beasts. Climate change caused the plants that made up most of the creatures’ diet to die off, and the unicorns weren’t able to adapt.

All Rhinos Are Unicorns, If You Think About It…

If you’re thinking that the Siberian unicorn looks more like a rhino than a horse with a horn, you’re not wrong. Elasmotherium sibiricum is related to the modern-day rhinoceros. These shaggy beasts weighed up to 4 tons and sported a single, massive keratin horn.

Unlike modern rhinos, however, the Siberian unicorn had teeth more like a giant rodent. They seem to have evolved to eat low, dense, tough vegetation. Like rodents, their teeth likely kept growing continuously, forcing them to gnaw at a steady rate to keep the teeth ground down.

Learning from the Past

Siberian Unicorn
BBC

Scientists originally believed that the Siberian unicorn went extinct thousands of years before humans walked the earth. Thanks to recent breakthroughs in fossil analysis, however, they now know that there were unicorns kicking it around Russia as recently as 39,000 years ago.

Modern-day rhinos are suffering many of the same setbacks as their ancient cousins. With low birth rates, rising temperatures, and finicky diets, it’s a challenge for conservationists to preserve the remaining rhino populations. Scientists hope to learn how and why the Siberian unicorns went extinct, and then hopefully to use that knowledge to save the rhinos.