The very model of a mammoth from Michigan

(Mammuthiana rather than linguiana.)

Passed on by several Facebook friends, a story from WBIR Channel 10 in Detroit with a report from the Detroit Free Press yesterday: “Farmer digs up woolly mammoth bones in soybean field” by Daniel Bethencourt. A photo:

And from the Free Press story:

After a full day of digging through a soybean field near Chelsea, Mich., researchers at the University of Michigan confirmed a farmer’s fairly unusual discovery: a large set of bones belonging to a woolly mammoth.

The find Thursday afternoon represents one of the more complete sets of woolly mammoth bones to ever be found in the state, said Dan Fisher, a professor at the University of Michigan and the director of the Museum of Paleontology.

… The bones were first discovered on Monday, in what amounted to pure accident. Neighbors Trent Satterthwaite and James Bristle, both farmers, were on Bristle’s farm on Scio Church Road in Lima Township, working to drain water from part of the field.

They had dug about 8  feet deep when a wood-like substance started to appear. Pretty soon they realized the wood was actually bone.

“I think we just found a dinosaur or something,” Satterthwaite recalled joking with Bristle.

They then contacted the University of Michigan, which referred them to Fisher.

In an unusual twist, Fisher said Bristle gave him one day to  dig on his land, because of a tight farming schedule tied to the harvest…

So on Thursday morning, a wild one-day digging sprint ensued.

… they uncovered a surprising 20% or so of the woolly mammoth’s skeleton. There was the head and tusks, several ribs, a set of vertebrae, and more.

While there have been about 30 woolly mammoths found in Michigan, only five or fewer have been uncovered so extensively, Fisher said.

Mammoth and mastodon remains are astonishingly common. To get extensive remains, the creature has to have escaped predation after death. Death by drowning in a river can do the trick, so reasonably complete skeletons are often found in former river valleys, and ancient river valleys are all over the place.

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