o The Frog Blog: A Mammoth Discovery?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

A Mammoth Discovery?

While we were on our Mid Term Break, the nearly complete skeleton of a massive Columbian mammoth who died during the last ice age has been dug out of a construction site near the La Brea Tar Pits in downtown Los Angeles. The mammoth died in his late 40's some 40,000 years ago. The Columbian mammoth was a species of elephant that became extinct near the end of the last ice age. Also included in the large collection of fossils found on the site were some 700 specimens, including a large prehistoric American Lion skull, lion bones, bones from dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, juvenile horse and bison, teratorn, coyotes, lynx and ground sloths. The discovery is expected to double the size of the museum's collection.

Like all animals discovered at the site, Zed became stuck in a tar pit along a river bed and ultimately died of exhaustion or starvation. Researchers believe his skeleton remained largely intact because soon after he died he was washed away by a flood and then covered by enough sediment, sand and debris to keep predators from making off with parts of the carcasse. They estimate his skeleton is 80 percent complete, missing only a hind leg and a vertebrae. While most mammoth tusks, which are made up of fragile material called dentine, are only found in small chunks, Zed's are intact and a remarkable 10-feet long. Examination of Zed's bones shows he was between 47 and 49 years old, suffered from arthritis and had broken three ribs during his lifetime, possibly in fights with other mammoths.

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