10 mastodons, 4 mammoths, and 2 Ice Age deer - ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ find

Friday, November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON - The chief curator of Denver Museum of Nature and Science has called the accidental discovery of an Ice Age fossil site at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village “one of those once-in-a-lifetime finds.

“Not only will it completely shape our understanding of life in the Rockies during the Ice Age, but it will become forever iconic for the kids of Colorado,” the website denverpost.com quoted Kirk Johnson as saying.

Heavy equipment operators excavating a reservoir unearthed a large collection of specimens and the tally so far includes: 10 American mastodons, four Columbian mammoths, two Ice Age deer, four Ice Age bison, one Jefferson’s ground sloth, one tiger salamander, iridescent beetles, snails and microscopic crustaceans called ostracods and large quantities of well-preserved wood, seeds, cones, and leaves of white spruce, sub-alpine fir, sedges, seeds, and other plants.

At least one of the 15 tusks recovered from the site is still white after tens of thousands of years with a good chance of recovering well-preserved ancient DNA from some of the fossils, the museum said in a news release today.

Daniel Fisher, a mastodon expert from the University of Michigan and consultant to the Snowmass excavation said the high-altitude setting of the site - 8,874 feet - is underrepresented in the Ice Age fossil record.

“There have been suggestions that high-altitude environments might have harbored different communities, or had a different story of change, but since fossils representing them are so rarely found, no one has known for sure,” Fisher said.

Initial radiocarbon dating indicates that the Ziegler Reservoir site is more than 43,500 years old, and geologists estimate the site could be as old as 130,000 years. Additional analysis will provide more specific dating of the site. (ANI)

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