OMG PYGMY MAMMOTH!!1

It’s cool enough that a mammoth tusk was found on Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California, but when the tusk may have belonged to a pygmy mammoth the size of a pony (!!1), the coolness skyrockets.

Santa Cruz Island is the largest of eight islands that make up California’s Channel Islands. During the Pleistocene epoch, more than 10,000 years ago, the four northern islands — Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Anacapa — formed one big island that scientists call Santarosae.

Scientists theorized that mainland Columbian mammoths — ancestors of the present-day elephant — swam across the channel in search of vegetation on Santarosae. Over time, they evolved into a pygmy form to better adapt to scarce resources on the islands.

Judging by the tusk size — about 4 feet long — it might have belonged to a pygmy mammoth, Vermeer said.

Apparently a more complete skeleton of a pygmy mammoth was found on another Channel Island (Santa Rosa) 15 years ago, but this is the first I’ve heard of such a marvelous creature. “Pygmy mammoth” has to be the most adorable oxymoron of all time.

Santa Cruz Island is hilly and not terribly mammoth-friendly, so it’s a big enough deal to find a mammoth there anyway. The only other one that has been found in the island was a full-size Columbian mammoth.

Mind you, it’s not 100% confirmed that the find is a mammoth tusk. They’re hard to identify, and it could be a marine mammal of some variety.

I’m rooting for the pygmy mammoth all the way.

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4 Comments »

Comment by Tim Falkenberg
2009-02-09 22:20:43

Very cool. I recall reading about Jared Diamond’s study of the extinct pygmy elephants in Indonesia and how Monitor lizards likely evolved into the Komodo Dragons feeding on these elephants. Island biogeography never fails to entertain!

Comment by livius drusus
2009-02-09 22:44:29

That’s for sure. It’s no coincidence Darwin was so inspired by what he found on the Galapagos.

I’m amazed at how little time evolution can take in island ecosystems. The Santa Rosa mammoths went from 14 feet to 4 feet tall in a measly 20,000 years!

 
 
Comment by godfry n. glad
2009-07-03 14:56:10

WANT!

It would go great with my standard burros.

And the chooks, too, of course.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-07-03 15:25:50

The chickens could go on mammoth-back rides!!1 How adorable would that be? :chicken:

 
 
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