Digging up facts on mammoths | AspenTimes.com

Digging up facts on mammoths

Dear Editor:If the paleontologists from the Denver Museum of Science & Nature identified the mammoths in the Ziegler Reservoir as Columbian mammoths, Mammuthus columbii, and not woolly mammoths, Mammuthus primigenius, what does that say about us?Evidence of the Columbian mammoth indicates a temperate grassland environment existed in Snowmass Village, possibly like today’s climate. (Climate scholar Jim Markalunas might take note of this.) Columbian mammoths were tall, about 13 feet to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters) at the shoulders, and they weighed about 20,000 pounds (9,000 kilograms). (Source: Principia College fact sheet.)Woolly mammoths were 9 to 11 feet (about 3 meters) and weighed about 12,000 pounds (5,500 kilograms). The woolly mammoth with its high-crowned head had smaller ears, a shorter trunk and a shorter tail. Its woolly coat was three layers of fur and that covered 4 inches of fat under the skin. All of these features were a compensation for cold weather. (Source: Principia fact sheet.)The Columbian mammoth developed as a distinct species during the Late or Upper Pleistocene (18,000 to 10,000 years ago) in North America. Its range was the present-day United States, Nicaragua and Honduras. The Jefferson’s ground sloth, Megalonyx jeffersonii, also found in the peat layer at Ziegler, was catalogued as belonging to a warm or interglacial phase of the late Pleistocene.About 65,000 years ago, the woolly mammoth crossed into North America. It was the smallest of the mammoths, and its range extended as far south as present-day Kansas. The woolly mammoth was considered to be one of the last species to have evolved from other types of mammoths in Siberia.The website of the Denver Museum of Science & Nature states that woolly mammoths have never been found in Colorado.John H. RistineBasalt