A male mastodon died fighting an opponent during mating about 13,200 years ago in what is now northeastern Indiana. Now, his well-preserved fossil and tusks not only reveal how the 8-ton adult died, but also where he hiked across North America.
Mastiff fossils were first found on a farm in 1998 by Kent and Janne Buesching, who were mining peat on their property. Archaeologists later unearthed the remains of Buesching mastodon. His skeleton, 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall and 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, has been studied since 2006.
A closer look at the mastodon’s skull revealed that it was killed when the tusk tip of another male mastodon pierced the right side of its skull. According to a new study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he died about 160 kilometers (160 km) away from his home territory.
“The unique result of this study is that, for the first time, we’ve been able to document migration,” said first study author Joshua Miller, a paleontologist and assistant professor of geology. annual land settlement of an individual from an extinct species. at the University of Cincinnati, in a statement.
TRACING MASTODON GENETICALLY
Northeast Indiana was once a summer mating site for mastodons, and research shows that this solitary creature annually migrates north from his home during the winter months for the last three years of his life. The researchers estimate that this ancient animal was about 34 years old when it died.
“Using new modeling techniques and a powerful geochemical toolkit, we were able to show that large male mastodons like Buesching migrate to mating grounds every year,” says Miller.
Daniel Fisher, co-leader of the research team, helped excavate mastodons 24 years ago. He is a professor of paleontology at the University of Michigan and director of the University of Michigan’s Museum of Paleontology.
Fisher cut a long, thin piece from the center of the 9.5-foot (3-meter) right tusk. Like studying tree belts, analysis of mastodon tusks reveals how it interacts with the landscape during its adolescence as well as in its later years.
“You have a whole life stretched out before you in that tusk. The growth and development of the animal, and the history of changing land use and changing its behavior – all that history. are all captured and recorded in the structure and composition of ivory,” Fisher said.
As a child, the mastodon stuck close to home with its female lead in central Indiana before splitting off and roaming on its own – much like modern elephants. As a lone explorer, the mastodon will travel about 20 miles (32 km) per month.
ANALYSIS OF TUSK
Migration is crucial for mastodons to find places where they can breed while living in extreme cold climates. But it is difficult for researchers to determine their geographic range.
Searching for oxygen and strontium isotopes in mastodon tusks is revealing some of those insights.
Mastodon tusks, like elephant tusks, have layers of new growth that form near the center during their lifetime. Information about when they were born can be stored in the tip of the tusk, while their death is in the layer at the base of the tusk.
When mastodons gnaw bushes and drink water, chemical elements from their meals are also stored in their tusks.
Chemical analysis of small samples taken from different layers of tusks of Buesching mastodons correlated with geographical locations as factors vary with landscape, as well as with seasonal fluctuations. This data is fed into a motion model by the researchers to track essentially when, where and how far he has gone.
“Every time you get to the warm season, the Buesching mastodon goes to the same places – bam, bam, bam -,” says Miller. “The clarity of that signal was unexpected and really exciting.”
Next, the researchers wanted to study the tusks of other mastodons to see if they could make similar discoveries.