Parts of a Columbian mammoth skull and tusks have been unearthed in Southeastern Idaho, and paleontologists say its entire skeleton might be buried in the same area.
Mary Thompson, one of Idaho Museum of Natural History’s vertebrate paleontologists and senior collections manager, said, “We may even have a complete mammoth. This is very unique for us.”
Last October, one volunteer found the mammoth fossil on a cliff face about 9 meters below the Idaho’s American Falls Reservoir’s high-water mark. When Thompson received the pictures of the fossil through her email, she gathered a team to dig up the bones as they raced rising water levels.
In an interview with Live Science, Thompson said, “I’ve been here since 1990, and we haven’t gotten anything this complete from that site since then. Out of this area, we have one other complete mammoth.”
Apart from the mammoth’s right tusk which was about 7.5 inches in diameter, the paleontologists also found part of its skull, a chunk of mandible, and two upper molars. They brought the fossils to the Idaho Museum of Natural History at the Idaho State University.
According to researchers, the mammoth was a fully grown adult, about 16 years old, based on its rings in the tusk. The age of the surrounding sediments also reveals that the mammoth has been buried on its right side for more than 72,000 years
Thompson, along with a team of students and volunteers, plans to go back to the site next year with ground-penetrating radar tools to identify what else is below the surface.