The surprise discovery of woolly mammoth remnants in Michigan is cause for excitement for scientists seeking to understand what drove these giants to extinction.
The unearthing of the unexpected remnants came as a surprise for two Chelsea, Michigan farmers digging their soy field. The discovery came about on September 28th, when James Bristle, the owner of the farm set about to install a drainage pipe at his property in the vicinity of Ann Arbor.
While digging a trench for the pipe, a huge bone came to light. Nearly 3 feet in length, this was later identified as one fragment of a woolly mammoth pelvis. As paleontologists were called on the scene, many more discoveries came about.
Daniel Fisher, part of the University of Michigan paleontology team led the excavation operation. The surprise discovery of woolly mammoth remnants in Michigan included not only the pelvis bone, but also the woolly mammoth’s skull, complete with the two tusks, the shoulder blades, ribs and vertebrae. The team estimates that only 20 percent of the bones have been excavated. Yet, given the short timeframe, even this much is considered a rewarding bounty.
At this point, the woolly mammoth bones are subject to careful analysis to determine their age. Moreover, scientists are looking for signs that could explain the giant’s death. Currently, the woolly mammoth remnants are estimated to be approximately 12,000 years old.
The surprise discovery of woolly mammoth remnants in Michigan is indeed a joyful occasion. Only ten other woolly mammoth skeletons have been previously unearthed on the territory of the state. However, about 300 American mastodons have been found here.
This may be due to the fact that ice glaciers on the surface of the state might have prevented the woolly mammoth from venturing here. According to Chris Widga of the Illinois State Museum, Michigan was almost entirely under ice at the time when woolly mammoths were roaming the landscape. To the south, the grasslands proved a more attractive and safe option. By the time the ice covering Michigan melted, American mastodons also came in direct competition with the mammoths.
The paleontology team unearthing the woolly mammoth remnants in Chelsea, Michigan believes that this particular specimen was killed by our prehistoric relatives. Several clues indicate that human activity was at play in the demise of the woolly mammoth.
After chopping up the body, it is possible that some pieces were stored in the ice-cold pond for perfect conservation. However, more research is needed to establish what killed the woolly mammoth.
Photo Credits: Flickr