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Home Science A 100,000-Year-Old Mammoth Tusk Has Been Discovered Off The Coast of California

A 100,000-Year-Old Mammoth Tusk Has Been Discovered Off The Coast of California

To the untrained eye, it could have seemed like an enormous wooden log. In actuality, scientists had noticed one thing uncommon off the California coast two years in the past: a 3-foot (1-meter) lengthy mammoth tusk.


A analysis workforce on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found the tusk in 2019 whereas exploring an underwater mountain roughly 10,000 ft (3,000 meters) beneath the ocean’s floor.

Though different mammoth fossils had been plucked from the ocean earlier than, it is uncommon for such objects to nestle alongside the deep seafloor, Daniel Fisher, a paleontologist on the University of Michigan, stated in a press launch. 

Scientists finally decided that the tusk belonged to a younger feminine Columbian mammoth, probably one which lived in the course of the Lower Paleolithic period, which spanned 2.7 million to 200,000 years in the past. Researchers are nonetheless working to find out the creature’s exact age, together with extra particulars about its life – together with its eating regimen and the way usually it reproduced.

“This is an ‘Indiana Jones’ mixed with ‘Jurassic Park’ moment,” Katie Moon, a postdoctoral researcher on the University of California, Santa Cruz, informed The New York Times.

The discovery might finally sign the presence of different historical animal fossils hidden within the deep sea.

Scientists put together to wash the massive tusk piece within the ship’s laboratory. (Darrin Schultz © 2021 MBARI)

Scientists broke a chunk of the mammoth tusk two years in the past

Monterey Bay scientists hadn’t supposed to come across a mammoth tusk in 2019. At the time, the analysis workforce was roving the ocean with remotely operated autos in search of deep-sea species.

“You start to ‘expect the unexpected’ when exploring the deep sea, but I’m still stunned that we came upon the ancient tusk of a mammoth,” Steven Haddock, senior scientist on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, stated within the press launch.


On a hunch, the scientists determined to retrieve the tusk from the ocean ground, however the tip broke off they usually weren’t in a position to acquire the complete specimen. The workforce later revisited the location in July to seize the remaining of the artifact. This time, they hooked up smooth supplies like sponges to the remotely operated automobile then gingerly lifted the tusk utilizing the automobile’s robotic arms.

The full tusk gave scientists a a lot bigger pattern of mammoth DNA, which they used to find out its species.

Scientists imagine the Columbian mammoth was one of the biggest creatures of its form – probably the end result of crossbreeding between a woolly mammoth and one other mammoth species. It most likely used its tusks to guard itself and forage for meals when it roamed North America as much as 10,000 years in the past.

Paleontologist slices a section from the core of the smaller tusk fragment. (Darrin Schultz © 2021 MBARI)Paleontologist slices a piece from the core of the smaller tusk fragment. (Darrin Schultz © 2021 MBARI)

The deep sea’s cool, high-pressure setting is good for preserving fossils

Scientists are actually analyzing the tusk’s radioisotopes, or naturally decaying atoms, to pinpoint how way back the mammoth lived. Since scientists know the speed at which isotopes like uranium and thorium decay, they will decide the tusk’s age primarily based on how a lot of these isotopes are nonetheless current within the artifact.

So far, this system suggests the mammoth tusk is far more than 100,000 years previous.


Scientists imagine the ocean is chargeable for conserving the artifact in such pristine situation.

Deep-sea temperatures are simply above freezing – round 4 levels Celsius (39 levels Fahrenheit), on common. This frigid local weather slows down the speed of fossil decay, similar to placing meals within the freezer prevents it from spoiling too quickly. 

Fossils even have a greater likelihood of surviving within the deep sea’s high-pressure setting – the underwater strain within the ocean’s deepest trenches is 1,100 occasions larger than it’s on the water’s floor.

“If the tusk had been found on land, deciphering its history would not be as straightforward,” Terrence Blackburn, affiliate professor on the University of California, Santa Cruz, stated within the press launch.

This article was initially printed by Business Insider.

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