Monday, February 9th, 2009
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.