Scientists continue fossil mammoth study

Mammoth

Scientists, including Friends president Steven W. Veatch, will be continuing research on the Ice Age mammoth discovered at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in 2002. Veatch, who has an M.S. in geology from Emporia State University, presented a paper on the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in 2004. The mammoth, informally dubbed “Milo,” is at least 33 million years younger than the other fossils of Florissant, dating to the Pleistocene period.

Now Veatch and Dr. David M. Jarzen of the Paleobotany and Palynology Laboratory at the Florida Museum of Natural History will be studying the environment the mammoth lived in using some very tiny clues–fossil pollen from the sediments surrounding the mammoth bones.

The tough coatings of pollen grains hold up well in the fossil record, so pollen often provides important clues to past environments even when larger plant fossils are absent. Pollen can often be identified to at least a family or generic level. Since no other large fossils were found with the mammoth, Veatch applied for and received a grant to study fossil pollen, which was extracted from the sediment and prepared on slides by a Canadian palynology lab.

Veatch is excited to be continuing work on the Florissant mammoth, and hopes to present the findings of this new study at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in 2010.

For more information on Milo the Mammoth, read High elevation Mammuthus from the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado.

-Melissa Barton

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