August 9, 2008

Mastodon Skeleton Found In Romania

Miners in Romania uncovered the skeleton of a 2.5 million-year-old mastodon, thought to be one of the best-preserved skeletons in Europe.

According to Laszlo Demeter, a historian and local councilor, the miners came across the remains in June during excavations at a coal mine near the village of Racosul de Sus.

"This is one of the most spectacular finds in Europe," said paleontologist Vlad Codrea, who examined the remains. "For Romania it is unique."

Nearly 90 percent of the skeleton's bones remained intact, with the only damage being to the tusks and skull. 

Codrea hopes the find will help paleontologists form a better image of the vegetation and animals that were in the area 2.5 million years ago.

"(This find) will open up an area of (paleontological) research in the area," said Alexandru Andresanu, a professor at the Bucharest Geology Faculty.

"It is sensational. To discover a near complete skeleton (like this) is unique in Romania and a rarity in the world," said Marton Wentzel, researcher at the Three Rivers Land museum in western Romania. "It is important because it can give us complete information about the flora and fauna or the era."

The mastodon, which stood 10 feet and was 23 feet long, was the forefather to today's elephant.  The animal is related to the mammoth, but feed on leaves and had straight tusks.  Scientists believe it died out due to climate change.

Researchers will study the skeleton when it is fully unearthed in the next two months.  It will then be put on display in the nearby museum of Baraolt.


Image Caption: Mastodon skeleton, Museum of the Earth. Courtesy Wikipedia