So it turns out unicorns might be real.

Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images.


Yeah. Researchers in Kazakhstan were working on a fossil site when they found the remains of a giant, ancient rhinoceros-like animal known as Elasmotherium sibiricum.

When they measured how old the bones were, they found something really cool: The bones were only around 26,000 years old!

Scientists typically thought all these creatures died out more like 350,000 years ago, so this has some cool scientific implications for the species. It helps us understand why this small population of animals survived, when their cousins died off, and what the environment was like in the past.

But this also has an interesting implication for fairy tales too.

If these creatures are only 26,000 years old, they probably lived around the same time as early humans. So unicorn stories may not be purely-fantastical myths, but instead an ancient memory of finding an E. sibiricum, passed down through the ages.

Yes. Unicorns could be real.

In honor of these maybe-not-so-mythical beasts, here are six real-life creatures that might have inspired our other favorite monsters and fairy tales. These are just a handful of theories, of course, and many other explanations are possible, but if these are true, they say something really cool.

1. To inaugurate our list, this is the real unicorn in all it's ... uh ... glory?

The Siberian Unicorn, in all it's glory. Image from Rashevsky/Wikimedia Commons.

I guess they might have been a bit ... less majestic than the ones in "The Last Unicorn." In fact, E. sibiricum would have been huge — nearly the size of a mammoth — covered in fur and built like a tank with a 24/7 gym membership. That'd definitely give any bad guy some serious pause before trying to capture one!

2. Next up, Herodotus' giant crazy ants.

GIF from "Them!" behind the scenes archive footage.

Herodotus was a Greek writer known for writing down just about anything he overheard, a habit that earned him the title "The Father of History." But some of the things he wrote down were kind of weird.

Like his stories that India was full of giant, furry, man-eating ants. The ants' burrows were also apparently covered in gold, which the locals would try to scoop up before the giant, aggressive ants would chase them away.

Crazy, right?

But it turns out that Herodotus might not have been off his rocker, just the victim of a really bad game of telephone. Because it turns out that high on the Deosai Plateau in northern Pakistan, there are big, furry creatures that sometimes bring gold dust up out of the Earth.

Only they're probably not ants. They're marmots.

Image from Pixel-mixer/Pixabay.

Herodotus didn't travel himself; he just wrote down the stories other people told him. So it's possible that by the time the story got from Pakistan to Greece, someone mistranslated it (and added the man-eating part because, let's face it, it's not a good story until someone gets eaten).

3. Also, a real-life "little mermaid" would make for a very different movie...

Ursula may have needed to give Ariel more than just legs before Prince Eric would fall for that. Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Animals/Flickr.

Some people think that the common depiction of mermaids as half-human, half-fish creatures may have come from early sightings of manatees. In fact, even Columbus' crew probably saw them, although, they noted, "...they are not so beautiful as they are said to be." Ha!

We still honor this connection today. The latin name for the manatee order, sirenia, comes from the myth of the sirens, who often look like mermaids.

4. Westeros isn't the only place that's full of dragons.

"We may be tiny now..." GIF from "Game of Thrones."

No story of a knight in shining armor would be complete without that knight slaying a giant fire-breathing dragon to rescue a town or damsel from peril.

But what if they were actually only a few inches long and didn’t breath fire, but just hung out in super misty places? Head on over to Postojna Cave in Slovenia right now, and you might just catch a glimpse of baby dragons hatching — or at least, a creature that may have inspired the dragon.

Not quite as intimidating, but catch it at the right time of night, and the olm is still a scary creature. Photo by Jure Kaovec/Stringer/Getty Images.

Olms are blind salamanders that live in caves, grow up to 16 inches long, and sport a neck frill that looks similar to what you might expect a dragon to have. The story goes that during heavy storms, they might have gotten washed out of their caves and into streams, where people found them — and being a weird, long snake-thing, they must have obviously been baby dragons, right?

What's more, try to find their lair and you'd end up outside a big cave filled with mist, which could’ve been mistaken for smoke in yesteryear. And where there's smoke, there's fire!

5. Imagine catching a kraken on your next fishing trip.

Batten down the hatches! GIF from "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

Many sailors dreaded coming across the kraken during their travels. The massive tentacled monster was said to have eaten whales, destroyed ships, and dragged sailors down to the watery depths, never to be seen again.

But it seems reports of the kraken might have just been about the giant squid, a creature capable of growing to lengths of … well, no one is really sure. Some estimates put them at 18 meters long — nearly 60 feet —but many believe that to be too far.

A giant, giant squid caught off the coast of New Zealand in 1996. Photo from Barry Durrant/Getty Images.

Ask any sailor who’s come across the kraken and survived, though, and they’d say a mile and a half is too small.

6. The cyclops may have been much, much weirder than you imagine.

But seriously, how does depth perception work? GIF from" The 7th Voyage of Sinbad."

When Odysseus and his men spent years finding their way home from Troy, one of their stops was on an island inhabited by a man-eating cyclops. It was only through quick thinking that Odysseus was able to escape without getting munched!

Of course, that’s all just the stuff of myths, right?

Many believe that ancient Greeks and Romans based their mythology on the world around them, and the creatures they created came from the bones they found. So the cyclops, as National Geographic guesses, could have actually been much wrinklier. And less human. And had a trunk.

And two eyes.

Behold! The real cyclops. Image from Dmitri Bogdanov/Wikimedia Commons.

It was an early relative of the elephant, Deinotherium giganteum, and the place where it’s trunk was became the cyclops’ single giant terrifying eye.

So what can this tell us about fairy tales? Well, our ancestors may not have known the exact animal names we know today, but they weren't dumb.

They did their best to make sense of the world around them through the stories they told, stories that were passed around and elaborated as they aged. Through those stories, they created characters that captured our imaginations.

And it seems as if some stories may have held more truth than we gave them credit for.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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