Researchers Confirm Third Mammoth At Mahaska Mammoth Site

The scapula (right) was prepared for transport to the University of Iowa at the last dig of the season on December 2nd. It helped to confirm that 3 different mammoths are located at the dig site. (photo by Don Hubbard)

The scapula (right) was prepared for transport to the University of Iowa at the last dig of the season on December 2nd. It helped to confirm that 3 different mammoths are located at the dig site. (photo by Don Hubbard)

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The mammoth dig at a rural Oskaloosa farm has handed down yet one more surprise. The discovery of a third mammoth at the site has the scientific world buzzing.

Sarah Horgen, The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History’s education and outreach coordinator, was quoted in IowaNow, “For Iowa, this is a first.” She went on to say, “And, for the Midwest, there are very few sites that have three or more animals.”

The scapula that was excavated at the end of the season confirmed to the researchers working on the project that indeed there are 3 different mammoth at the site. The newest is believed to also be a Woolly Mammoth, which joins the already discovered Woolly and a Columbian Mammoth.

But according to the latest, there is now doubt about there being a Columbian Mammoth. Columbian Mammoths were typically larger than their cousin the Woolly. This doubt is based upon some of the recent tooth and tusk discoveries.

Holmes Semken, a UI Professor in geo-science and has worked closely with the dig, told IowaNow that “Woolly mammoths are not as common in Iowa as their relatives, the Columbian mammoth, so the discovery of possibly three is pretty exciting.”

Art Bettis with the University of Iowa Department of Geo-science called the site earlier in the year, ““The perfect storm of organic preservation.”

During the summer months, volunteers and scientists had concentrated on the wetter portion of the ‘plunge pool’ where the bones had collected. Because of their location and the always present water, the bones and material were better preserved and could be lifted gently from their location in the blue clay. Researchers will return to that area next spring.

These new bones, in the drier section, have been exposed to oxygen and therefore have degraded to some extent. But with the careful work, like that being used to extract the tooth from the Earth, they will ultimately be saved.

Dave Brenzel of the Indian Creek Nature Center explained, on the last day of the dig for the season, that the belief in a smaller plunge could be much larger than first imagined. “I think we’ve probably decided that that plunge pool that we imagined, small little plunge pool, added by the ’93 flood and all, that’s nothing compared to the plunge pool that was here when there was two major rivers here.”

So far, the site has given up over 100 bones from the three different mammoths, including things like teeth and scapula. Examples of both were recovered on the December 2nd dig.

Horgan told IowaNow, “This project has already exceeded our early expectations in the amount of evidence uncovered at the site as well as the incredible educational experiences we have been able to offer Iowans of all ages who are participating in various aspects of the project.”

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Posted by on Jan 9 2013. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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