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Researchers find relatively recent remains of 'Siberian unicorn'

A portion of the ancient rhino population may have subsisted in southern Siberia long after its neighbors to north perished.
By Brooks Hays   |   March 29, 2016 at 11:17 AM

TOMSK, Russia, March 29 (UPI) -- Researchers thought the Siberian rhinoceros, also known as the "Siberian unicorn," went extinct some 350,000 years ago, but a newly excavated rhino fossil has been dated to 29,000 years ago, significantly altering the species' timeline.

The new evidence, published in the American Journal of Applied Sciences, suggests early humans lived alongside -- and potentially hunted -- the Siberian unicorn.

The extinct rhino species Elasmotherium sibiricum boasted an especially long front horn, which inspired the unicorn moniker. Though some have suggested the "unicorn" title is a sly strategy for earning one's research extra media attention.

The skull fragment was unearthed in Kazakhstan. A portion of the ancient rhino population may have subsisted in southern Siberia long after its neighbors to north perished.

"Most likely, the south of Western Siberia was a [refuge], where this rhino had preserved the longest in comparison with the rest of the range," Andrei Shpansky, study author and Tomsk State University scientist, told CNN.

Researchers are now trying to figure out what climatic factors pushed the rhinos south.

"Understanding of the past allows us to make more accurate predictions about natural processes in the near future," said Shpansky.

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