Little Bits of History

Pygmy Mammoth

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2011

Pygmy Mammoth compared to a Mammoth and an Elephant (photo by Travis S.)

June 29, 1994: The first near-complete fossil of a pygmy mammoth skeleton is found on Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of California. The sea cliff were eroding away and exposed the skeleton, which remains the only full sized skeleton of the pygmy mammoth ever recovered. The fossil was also the first to be dated. Radiocarbon dating showed the skeleton to be 12,840 years old.

Mammuthus exilis lived only on three islands: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz. The beasts measured between 4.5 and 7 feet tall and weighed about 2,000 pounds. Full sized mammoths were about 14 feet tall and weighed about 20,000 pounds. Mammoths lived during the Pleistocene era and were a distant relative to the modern day elephant.

Mammoths ranged across Europe, Asia, and North America. On the west coast area of modern day California, mammoths over grazed the land. It was an Ice Age and the water level was about 300 feet lower than today. The hungry mammoths could smell the sweet vegetation on a single island off the coast – about 6 miles away. The beasts swam the short distance and had a new food supply.

The Ice Age came to an end, the ice melted, the water level rose, and the mammoths were trapped on what became three islands. While their population had boomed, the food supply became increasingly limited. Over time, the mammoths became smaller and eventually formed their own species. For about 200,000 years, the mammoths were one of the dominant species on the planet. About 20,000 years ago, the mammoths along with many other large mammals became extinct. The reason for this remains an enigma.

“99 percent of species put on this list are not extinct. That is not a failure; that’s an enormous success.” – Norm Dicks

“I don’t think we should knowingly allow any species to go extinct if we can prevent it.” – Jeff McNeely

” If you whack a population and whack it again and again, it’ll go extinct in that area. If it’s widely distributed, it might be able to bounce back. If it’s isolated in a narrow stretch of habitat, it may be more vulnerable.” – Jessica Hellmann

” I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Also on this day:
I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Sound Recording – In 1888, a wax cylinder was used to record music.

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