Saturday, June 30, 2012

As I was traveling near Waco Texas this afternoon, I stumbled upon this amazing site that was was kept hidden from the general public for over 30 years as it was being excavated. The nations(US) first and only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian Mammoths. I know it is an extinct animal, but to see this site for myself dating back some 60 thousand years ago and envisioning these mighty beast once roaming the countryside in herds of hundreds or thousands of animals invigorates my passion to save the species on earth still here all the more. 

 The Columbian mammoth was a descendent of Mammuthus meridionalis, and is an extinct species of elephant of the Quaternary period that appeared in North America during the late Pleistocene.


The Discovery of a Lifetime On a spring day in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin embarked on a search for arrowheads and fossils near the Bosque River. To their surprise, the men stumbled upon a large bone eroding out of a ravine. Recognizing the unusual nature of the find, they removed the bone and took it to the Strecker Museum at Baylor University for examination. The bone was identified as Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). 
Museum staff members quickly organized a team of volunteers and excavation began at the site.Using hand tools such as brushes and bamboo scrapers, crews slowly excavated a lost world. Between 1978 and 1990, the fossil remains of 16 Columbian mammoths were discovered. The excavation work was believed to be complete, so the remains were wrapped in plaster jackets and placed into storage. But the discoveries continued. 

Between 1990 and 1997, six additional mammoths were excavated, including a large male (bull). Crews also uncovered the remains of a camel (Camelops hesternus) and the tooth of a juvenile saber-tooth cat (Smilodon fatalis), which was found next to an unidentified animal. How the animals died is still a mystery. No evidence of human involvement was found, and most of the remains did not appear disturbed by predators or scavengers. One of the first hypotheses was that the animals perished in a catastrophic tragedy. However, recent geology research indicates the animals died in a series of events spread across many years. 

Approximately 68,000 years ago, rapidly rising waters from the Bosque River flooded the site. At least 19 mammoths from a nursery herd were trapped in a steep-sided channel and drowned. A camel may have also been trapped and killed during this event. Later floods buried the remains. A second event took place sometime later. During this event, an unidentified animal associated with a juvenile saber-tooth cat died and was buried. The third event involved a bull, a juvenile, and an adult female. Approximately 15,000 years after the nursery herd was trapped, these animals also appear to have been victims of rising water, unable to escape due to the slippery slopes of the surrounding channel. The discovery of additional fossil material during the construction of the Dig Shelter will help further the research into when and how the Waco mammoths lived and died.