Apparently early humans may have coexisted with a beast which may have given rise to belief in the mythical unicorn.
Scientists believe that a species of Siberian rhino, the Elasmotherium sibiricum, roamed south western Siberia up to just 26,000 years ago – a far cry from the previous estimate of 350,000 years.
That means it could have encountered humans and, following its extinction, seen its image warped by folklore.
As evidence of the possible meeting of man and Elasmotherium sibiricum, researchers carbon dated a fossilised skull unearthed in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan, which showed it was little more than 26,000 years old.
According to Science News Line Dr Andrei Shpanski of Tomsk University said:
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. There is another option that it could migrate and dwell for a while on the more southern areas.
Most likely, it was a very large male of very large individual age (teeth not preserved). The dimensions of this rhino today are the biggest of those described in the literature, and the proportion are typical.
Our research makes adjustments in the understanding of the environmental conditions in the geologic time in general. Understanding of the past allows us to make more accurate predictions about natural processes in the near future: it also concerns climate change.
Research on the discovery was recently published by the American Journal of Applied Science.
Evidence of a real candy mountain remains outstanding, however.