Top Scientific Experts Join Museum Staff to Lend Knowledge,
Denver Museum of Nature & Science Field Report from
Snowmass Village: Saturday, November 6, 2010
Note to Reporters and Editors: Every afternoon,
the Denver Museum of Nature & Science will issue an update
about the fossil excavation taking place at Ziegler Reservoir near
Snowmass Village, Colorado. In addition to this e-mail, watch for
another e-mail with links to the still images shot today, and a
third e-mail that will allow you to download video.
Today: Today at the Snowmass Village Ice Age
ecosystem excavation, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
scientists welcomed several renowned experts to the dig site.
The outside scientists will spend the weekend advising and
consulting with the Museum's scientific staff, imparting knowledge
about the five Ice Age animals discovered at the excavation site
thus far: Columbian mammoth, American mastodon, Ice Age bison, a
ground sloth, and an Ice Age deer.
Dr. Greg McDonald, a Museum research associate and an expert on
sloths, confirmed that a bone found on Thursday was a humerus, or
upper arm bone, of a Megalonyx sp., or Jefferson's ground sloth. He
was also able to say definitively that this is the first
Jefferson's ground sloth ever to be discovered in Colorado.
According to McDonald, there have been nine other sloths found in
Colorado, but they are a different species called Harlan's ground
Dr. Russ Graham, an Ice Age mammal expert from the Pennsylvania
State University, visited the site today, and is interested in
mapping the occurrence of the five animal species discovered so far
near Snowmass Village in a database called Faunmap. Faunmap
documents the distribution of Ice Age mammal species in North
Also today, scientists were able to determine the deer-like animal
discovered on Thursday is, in fact, a deer of the genus Odocoileus.
Further excavation of the deer over the past two days has revealed
the small animal's fractured antlers, which will be carefully
recovered and preserved.
Dr. Daniel Fisher, a mastodon expert from the University of
Michigan, worked with excavation crews in an area where another set
of bones was discovered on Friday. Dr. Fisher's research interprets
the growth rings in mastodon and mammoth tusks with such precision
that he can determine the age, sex and life history of the animal
the tusk belonged to, as well as certain details about the climate
and environment in which the animal lived. Because of the
uniqueness of this high-altitude Ice Age ecosystem, Dr. Fisher is
especially interested in studying the tusks recovered from the site
Dr. Fisher also participated in identifying an important discovery
on the site this morning. The Museum's president and CEO, George
Sparks, made the find while sifting through a pile of bulldozed
peat. He recovered a large vertebra. Dr. Fisher was called over to
inspect the bone and determined that it is an anterior thoracic
vertebra, probably from a mammoth. If confirmed by additional
evidence, it would be the second mammoth discovered on site.
"I was just stunned when it fell out of the hill," said Sparks. "I
thought, wow, that's a big bone."
Media Availability: Dr. Ian Miller, Dr. Steve
Holen and Dr. Kirk Johnson, the Museum's chief curator and Vice
President of Research and Collections will be available for phone
interviews late today by appointment.
For additional information about the excavation, interview clips,
video clips and still images from the site, please check the Denver
Museum of Nature & Science's home page and press page.
About the Denver Museum of Nature &
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain
Region's leading resource for informal science education. A variety
of engaging exhibits, discussions and activities help Museum
visitors celebrate and understand the natural wonders of Colorado,
Earth and the universe. The Museum is located at 2001 Colorado
Blvd., Denver, CO, 80205. To learn more about the Museum,
check www.dmns.org, or call 303-370-6000.
Many of the Museum's educational programs and exhibits are
made possible in part by generous funding from the citizens of the
seven-county metro area through the Scientific & Cultural