Michigan Home to Over 300 Mastodons – New Dig Underway
If you were a child who held fast to the notion of dedicating your adult life to spending the day digging up the past, well, listen up... There is an excavation currently underway in Mayville, Michigan to unearth a 13,000-year-old mastodon skeleton.
An ancient relative of today's elephant that roamed parts of North America and Eurasia during the Ice Age, the Mastodon's legacy is often lost in the shadow of the most widely known animal of the Pleistocene, the Woolly Mammoth. Both Mammoth and Mastodon were captured and killed by early man for food, fur, and bone, but it's speculated that some of the Mastodon population didn't die out from over hunting, but rather tuberculosis contracted from settling humans. Unlike the Ice Age's Mammoth, or today's elephants, Mastodons were not known to travel in small familial groups, but rather singularly, possibly only gathering during breeding season. According to CBS Detroit, "roughly 300 mastodons and 30 mammoths have been found in Michigan over the decades." Who knew Michigan would be such a hot spot for these cold beasts?
A team of researchers, teachers and graduate students are taking part in this once-in-a-lifetime dig after the first fossil was discovered two years ago by farmer and part-time teacher, Seth Colling. Colling, who teaches at the Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning, was taking students at the center out for a nature walk when the first bone was found in a creek. He is among the teachers volunteering for the dig, saying that it is, quote, "a dream come true."
So, what will happen to this skeleton once it's unearthed, cleaned, and tagged? The remains will live at the University of Michigan's Paleontology Museum where they will be studied for years to come. Hopefully the remains can be cast and an articulated replica can be put on display for us all to marvel at in awe.