Often, we might be tempted to think that just because scientists dedicate their lives to their work they can’t be wrong about their findings. Well, that’s completely false, as discover that they’ve made mistakes in their field more often than you’d imagine.
And while good scientists don’t really make mistakes unless they get incorrect or incomplete data, you’d again be surprised with how often new data pops up to surprise scientists and overthrow years, if not decades of hard work, theories, and testing. In one of the most recent examples of such an event, scientists have to look over decades worth of data after a Siberian unicorn fossil suggests it cohabited with humans.
Elasmotherium sibiricum, as the Siberian unicorn is officially named, doesn’t really have much in common with its namesake except for – and you guessed it! – its single horn. The creature was basically a big rhino, roaming the territory between Eastern Russia and Kazakhstan, from Mongolia to the Don River.
Growing up to fifteen feet in length and to around eight to ten thousand pounds, the animals were bigger than most elephants alive today. They were herbivores and had a single large horn on their heads, primarily used for protection. And they were thought to die off some 350,000 years ago.
The new data came in the form of an unusually large Siberian unicorn skull found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan. After it was analyzed and carbon dated, the tests showed that the large male to which the skull belonged died around 29,000 years ago – way after the species was presumed to have died off.
Speculations as to species survival 321,000 years after experts had thought it went extinct are prevalent, but none can be confirmed as of yet. It is believed that the creature’s ancestors migrated to Western Siberia, where the found refuge and a safe place to keep living for hundreds of thousands of years.
How the massive creatures managed to find enough grass to sustain a large enough number of the population for so long is still unknown.
Experts are now forced to start the daunting task of reanalyzing a large number of fossils and to carbon date them. You see, instead of using carbon dating, a large number of ancient animals were given extinction dates by comparison to one another.
If there is such a big discrepancy with the Siberian unicorn, many other species could have also died later than expected. But performing radiocarbon datings of other fossils should solve this matter eventually.
Image source: Wikimedia