Science

Rare Mammoth Skull On California Island Baffles Scientists

By Angela Laguipo , Sep 19, 2016 05:00 PM EDT

A team of Paleontologists unearthed a well-preserved skull of a mammoth from Santa Rosa Island at Channel Islands National Park. The team is baffled by the discovery since it's probably the most well-preserved mammoth skull ever discovered.

The team discovered the skull near a stream on the island. Geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tested the charcoal samples near the fossil. They revealed that the remains were about 13,000 years old.

The date happens to coincide with the oldest human skeletal remains, the Arlington Springs Man, found in North America. The remains were also discovered on Santa Rosa Island. This got scientists rethinking how these massive elephant-like mammals lived alongside humans thousands of years ago.

"This mammoth find is extremely rare and of high scientific importance. It appears to have been on the Channel Islands at the nearly same time as humans," said Justin Wilkins, Mammoth Site palaeontologist. He added that he has seen a lot of mammoth skulls in his career, but this one is the best preserved yet.

What intrigued the paleontologists more is that the skull is not huge enough to be classified as a Columbian mammoth and not small enough to be identified as a pygmy mammoth. Moreover, the tusks are also bizarre as the right one protrudes about 1.4 meters with a coil just like what older mammoths have. On the other hand, the left one slopes just like the tusk juvenile mammoths have.

Mammoths lived in North America about two million years ago, with Columbian mammoths emerging a million years later. Scientists believed that the Columbian mammoths traveled to the Channel islands during the past two ice ages when the island was closer to the mainland and sea levels were low.

"The discovery of this mammoth skull increases the probability that there were at least two migrations of Columbian mammoths to the island-during the most recent ice age 10-30,000 years ago, as well as the previous glacial period that occurred about 150,000 years ago," said Dan Muhs, USGS geologist. 

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