Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mastodons, Mammoths, and Wood That's Been Chewed

"Dozer Driver Makes Fossil Discovery of the Century"
Loren Grush, FOXNews (November 20, 2010)

"An accidental discovery by a bulldozer driver has led to what may be the find of the century: an ice-age burial ground that could rival the famed La Brea tar pits.

"After two weeks of excavating ancient fossils at the Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado, scientists from the Denver Museum of Natural Science returned home Wednesday with their unearthed treasures in tow -- a wide array of fossils, insects and plant life that they say give a stunningly realistic view of what life was like when ancient, giant beasts lumbered across the Earth.

"Since the team's arrival in mid-October, scientists have extracted nearly 600 bones from about 20 different animals from the Pleistocene era, a period of time during the Ice Age. The remains of up to six different species have been exhumed, including five American mastodons, three Ice Age bison, a Jefferson's ground sloth, a mule deer, a tiger salamander, and two Columbian mammoths. ..."

For paleontologists, this is a pretty big deal. For one thing, the article points out that the number of mastodons found in Colorado went from three - found over the last 120 years - to eight. In about two weeks.

It's not just the number of specimens. It's where they are.

"...The Ziegler Reservoir stands at the top of a ridge at an elevation that is higher than most excavation sites. The reservoir was soon revealed to be a glacial lake that had filled over, allowing the fossils inside to survive erosion for more than 40,000 years.

" 'We've got a lot of records at low elevation where sediment accumulates and where fossils are better preserved,' Miller told FoxNews.com. 'But you really don't get things like lakes preserved at high elevations for long periods of time,' said Miller. 'So this site is really going to help us answer questions about how high elevation floras and faunas reacted to Pleistocene climate change.'..."

There's more than mastodons and mammoths in the Ziegler Reservoir find: like insects, plants, and wood that looks like it's been worked over by a beaver. That doesn't seem very exciting - unless you're someone looking at an opportunity to study an ancient ecosystem.

One thing seems obvious right away, from the new Colorado fossils: Things have changed in the last 40,000 years.

The Lemming went on (and on) about change, and how folks react to it, yesterday. One thing that's interesting - in the Lemming's opinion - is how ideas about how change happened have changed over the last hundred years. (August 10, 2010)

Folks who study facets of the universe like the development of life, how Earth's interior works, or how the planets and stars got to where they are now, have been on some very steep learning curves. And we don't seem to be all that much close to having 'all the answers.' Sometimes it seems that we're collecting questions faster than we're finding answers. Which the Lemming doesn't mind one bit.

From quite a few points of view, this is a very exciting time to live in.

Not-completely-unrelated posts:More:

2 comments:

Mr Lonely said...

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Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Mr. Lonely,

Thank you for the kind words.

About lonelyroad.blogspot.com / ! A Growing Teenager Diary ! - I've taken a glance at it, and see that you're up to your 1,000th follower: As of November 18, 2010.

Congratulations on that!

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