Mammoth Site Researches Rare Mammoth Skull
Scientists from The Mammoth Site at Hot Springs are in Santa Barbara, California this week to take part in research on a mammoth skull. The findings may bring startling results from the rare mammoth fossil that was unearthed last year at Channel Islands National Park.
Justin Wilkins is the in situ bone bed curator at The Mammoth Site. He’s part of its research team at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Scientists for the U.S. Geological Survey have dated charcoal samples adjacent to the mammoth specimen at about 13,000 years.
Wilkins says the mammoth fossil isn’t really a Pygmy Mammoth like those found in the Channel Islands but it’s not as large as the Columbian Mammoths found at The Mammoth Site.
“If this is between those two animals as a…say…separate species or a subspecies of one of the two,” observes Wilkinson, “it becomes meaningful because it says these animals are not only becoming pygmies way back in deep time…because we have older specimens that are already pygmy…but they’re becoming pygmies in near time. So this is a recurring process. And that would be a pretty big deal.”
In other words that would mean mammoths became pygmies due to changing conditions in their environment at multiple times.
Monica Bugbee is a preparator at The Mammoth Site. She’s in charge of cleaning the mammoth skull at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
“It’s going to be a big project,” Bugbee explains. “Right now it’s encased in a plaster jacket to keep everything stable…keep it from falling apart. So the first step is going to be to remove that. And then we’ll have to work on cleaning off any of the dirt that’s still left on the bone. Some of it’s very, very fragile, so we’ll be treating it with preservatives to make sure nothing falls apart.”
Bugbee says that The Mammoth Site’s research will help determine whether the fossil is from a young Columbian Mammoth or from another species of mammoth.
The Mammoth Site Facebook page will post updates on Bugbee’s research over the upcoming weeks.
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