• Question: Would it somehow be possible for a unicorn to evolve or be created from stem cells or something?

    Asked by gallifreyanhippo to Aled, Ellie, Fiona, Kev, Willem on 14 Mar 2014.
    • Photo: Kevin Arbuckle

      Kevin Arbuckle answered on 14 Mar 2014:

      It is probably possible for a ‘unicorn’ (if we think of it as a horse with a horn) to evolve, but whether it would ever actually happen is almost impossible to say. I do think it is rather unlikely though. But if we assume that there is no developmental barrier to an outgrowth of bone (for example) on the skull of a horse, then given the right mutations and strong enough selection pressure (difficult environmental conditions that favour adaptations), then I don’t see a reason why it would be impossible.

      That said, we do actually have a ‘unicorn’ (in a sense) alive with us. The Indian, or one-horned, rhinoceros has the scientific name of Rhinoceros unicornis. Unicornis (and unicorn) simply means ‘one horn’, and this species of rhino has one large horn – and also looks like it is wearing a suit of armour! What’s more, rhinos are actually reasonably closely related to horses, as they are in the same group (called Perissodactyla).

    • Photo: Aled Roberts

      Aled Roberts answered on 17 Mar 2014:

      Excellent answer by Kev!

      If a rhino can evolve to have a horn then under similar circumstances it should be possible for a horse to evolve it too! (as Kev said! we need similar selection pressures!)

      I think it would be much easier to get a stick on horn!


    • Photo: Fiona Heesen

      Fiona Heesen answered on 18 Mar 2014:

      What an interesting question! Like Kev and Alex said, with the right selection pressures there is no reason why a horse could not evolve and leave us with unicorns. I agree with them both though, it is probably pretty unlikely – probably your best chance to meet one is to open a book about mythical creatures 🙂