Museum Uncovers Mastodons of all Ages

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is uncovering mastodons of all ages -- including infants and juveniles -- at the Ice Age dig site near Snowmass Village. The mastodon clues so far include a small skull of an infant (the size of a basketball), a small skull of a juvenile (the size of a beer keg), a tiny femur or thigh bone that may have belonged to a fetus (it measures seven inches in length), and more than two dozen tusks.

"Based on our previous research, we know that we are finding male and female mastodons of all ages," said Dr. Kirk Johnson, the leader of the Museum's excavation team and vice president of the Research and Collections Division. "Since beginning the dig last fall, we have uncovered 26 total mastodon tusks, which means we have evidence for at least 13 to 20 different mastodons on this site. We'll know more as we study the growth rings on each tusk and identify pairs of tusks that belonged to individual mastodons."

Prior to the discovery of this site, there had only been three other mastodon finds on record in Colorado, and none yielded mastodon skulls.

"We have so many speculative questions, like why were so many mastodons in this one location, and what can scientists learn from this discovery?" added Johnson. "At this point, we only have speculative answers.  We're busy collecting data and mapping the finds, so these details can help us develop solid answers."

The crew is now on the 21st day of this seven-week dig, the Museum's largest-ever fossil excavation project. Thirty-six scientific experts, 107 trained volunteers, 35 staff members, and nine interns are working at the site.  Beginning Saturday, the crew size will increase by 10 to 12 people who will help recover the incredible number of fossils at the site.

 

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