A mammoth win for paleontologists occurred Monday when the farmer who found woolly mammoth bones on his property in Washtenaw County donated the specimen to the University.
Last week James Bristle was installing a drainage pipe in his Chelsea, Mich. soybean field when he discovered the unusual bones. What he first mistook as a fence turned out to be a rib bone. When Bristle realized the magnitude of his discovery he contacted the University and Dan Fisher, a professor of paleontology and director of the University’s Museum of Paleontology.
The mammoth will be named the Bristle Mammoth after the farmer who found it. Fisher said the discovery is in the top 10 most significant mammoth discoveries in Michigan’s recorded history.
University researchers believe the mammoth is a hybrid of a woolly mammoth and a Columbian mammoth which lived around 11,700 and 15,000 years ago.
Fisher hopes to display the mammoth at the Museum of Natural History after they excavate it. With a skull, two tusks, the pelvis, ribs, vertebrae, its shoulder blades uncovered, so far the researchers have 20 percent of a full mammoth skeleton. Using bones from other mammoths and fiberglass casts of bones to complete the skeleton the mammoth will be able to be displayed.
They theorize the mammoth may have been killed by early hunters based off of the placement of the bones and their discovery of what they believe could be a cutting tool. Because the skeleton appears intact the research team believe early humans killed the animal and stored it in a pond for preservation: a tactic Fisher said he has seen at other nearby sites.
The presence of three boulders near the carcass also points favorably towards their hypothesis. Early humans would take boulders and use them to keep mammoth bodies submerged.
To prove their theory, researchers will have to clean and inspect the bones for any abrasions which could be a result of hunters cleaning the carcass.