A part of a mammoth skull and tusks have been discovered in southeastern Idaho, and specialists believe that an extremely rare complete skeleton might be located there. Professionals guess the mammoth was about 15 years old and lived around 80,000 to 125,000 years ago in what was a kind of savanna type plain that was inhabited with huge plant-eating animals and also predators.
The mammoth was sighted earlier in the month by a fossil seeker who was acting as a volunteer for the United States Bureau of Reclamation, which is located near the American Falls Reservoir. It was partly dug up by college students and professors from Idaho State University.
However the group was forced to halt their work on Oct. 18 when the water in the reservoir rose, making them unable to complete their tasks. The team has already made plans to come back next summer when the water inside the basin falls back down below flood levels.
Mary Thompson, who works as a university professor, explained that the time over the winter would allow the team to be able to prepare a little better. It would give them some more time to be able to gather funds in order to get ready if the skeleton actually turned out to be a whole mammoth.
She added that it would be extremely important if they were to go out and actually exhume a whole mammoth. She also stated that there were bones and tucks that had to stay inside the bank that they were unable to remove at the present time. The group had to erect a barrier in order to hold the fossils in place while they were immersed in water.
The region has been known to have given up fossils of numerous extinct species over the years, fluctuating from saber-toothed tigers, short nosed bears which were bigger than grizzly bears and enormous sloths. Some of the most often discovered fossils are bison latifrons. They are fairly similar to modern bison but were much larger and had huge horns.
Thompson explained that the fossils come from the Pleistocene era, which is a time period that ran from about 2 million years ago to 12,000 years ago. She explained that scientists from around the globe come Idaho to study the fossils from the falls.
The professor has hopes that there will be parts of the huge mammoth put together sometime in 2015. She explained that if a complete mammoth skeleton was to really be there, that would be extremely rare and very exciting.
Thompson explained there were already various different museums that were interested in the mammoth but that it would be put up on display at the gallery right there at the falls they have on location. She is extremely excited about getting it out on display and hopes to have portions of it out and on display sometime in the coming year.
She reminded everyone that her crew was made up of mostly students and by taking them out into the field, she was able to teach them things that she could never show in a class or even a lab. She noted that digging up the mammoth was a very unique opportunity for them all and also extremely exciting.
By Kimberly Ruble
Photo by Joey Rozler – Flickr License