Ancient Mammoth Remains found in the Sunshine State
Researchers in Florida are studying the remains of ancient mammoths found on a Seminole Indian reservation. Workers digging a canal found fossilised molars and work was stopped to permit a team of local archaeologists to excavate the area properly. Within a few days over 100 bones including more Mammoth fossils were uncovered.
To find such a congregation of fossils is extremely rare, particularly in a state like Florida with large areas of low-lying ground and marshland as many sites are affected by water movement.
Further research is required to identify all the species present at the site. The ancient mammoth remains may have come from a Columbian mammoth (M. columbi). An adult Columbian mammoth would have stood nearly 4 metres tall at the shoulder and could have weighed as much as 10 Tonnes.
Preliminary site surveys, have estimated the age of the fossils to be about 10,000 years old, dating these finds to the very end of the Pleistocene epoch. If tusks can be recovered analysis of their growth rings can provide scientists with valuable climate data and using a method of measurement pioneered by American scientists at Michigan University the age of these Mammoths when they died can also be determined.
Mammoths like modern elephants, continued to grow until about the age of 40, examination of the fossilised dentine layers within the fossilised tusks should provide data on how old these animals were when they died.
It is too early to tell whether this collection of fossilised animal remains is as a result of a natural phenomenon such as a flood or the work of the stone age people who lived in the area at the time. Perhaps this was a “butcher’s yard” were the carcasses of animals that had been hunted were cut up, as yet no tell-tale scratches or marks on the bone made by tools have been identified.
Mammoths may have been an important food source for many early peoples. Their lives could have revolved round the annual Mammoth migrations. European cave paintings show how important these animals were to our ancestors.
Ironically, the enigmatic Mammoth is still very popular today, it often features in Everything Dinosaur’s surveys of children’s popular prehistoric animals (actually it ranked ninth in our 2006/7 survey) and the company does supply a lot of Woolly Mammoth models to young Ice Age fans.
American scientists who have studied a number of bone beds of this nature have speculated that the Columbian Mammoth may have been hunted to extinction by early man. Analysis of other USA finds show that these Mammoths reached maturity earlier and grew faster – indications of a animal population under pressure. It has been argued that if these Mammoths had gone extinct due to climate change, tusk analysis would show evidence of food shortages such as a slower growth rate and the age of maturity to increase.
Could over hunting led to the extinction of this megafauna?
The team at Everything Dinosaur submitted suggestions about the type of animals that should be depicted in the new Ice Age Mammals box set. We suggested a Woolly Rhino and wanted to include a South American Terror Bird such as a phorusrhacid as we wanted to depict some of the megafauna around at the time. The rhino model was made but the Terror Bird rejected, it proved too difficult to sculpt a two-legged model – a perennial problem when it comes to creating models of bipeds.
The Ice Age Mammal Box Set
Picture courtesy of Wild Republic and Everything Dinosaur
Prehistoric Mammal models including Woolly Mammoth models: Models of Prehistoric Mammals.