September 8, 2008

Rare Mammoth Skull Discovered In France

Paleontologists located in the south of France have found a rare mammoth skull. The almost 1323 pound fossil was found near Saint Paulien, and resided there for 400,000 years, scientists estimate.

The species discovered is being described as the "missing link" in mammoth evolution. Scientists will begin their investigation of the exciting find, called "extremely rare", this week.

Researchers believe this could be one of the best-preserved mammoth specimens discovered. Only a few skeletons of the steppe mammoth exist, and in these instances, the skull is rarely in one piece.

The skull found belonged to the male steppe mammoth, which stood about 12ft tall and was alive during Middle Pleistocene era.

Nevertheless, relatively little is known about the Middle Pleistocene period. This period occurred about 800,000 to 120,000 years ago. Fossils found from this period are unusual, with many of the sediments badly battered.

Studying the mammoth skull could help shed light on how and when these creatures evolved.

Researchers also state that understanding the evolution of mammoths can benefit elephant conservationists today.

"If we look at climate change and at the fossil history of the mammoth, we know elephants are migratory animals. As soon as an African elephant comes out of the park and runs through a village, people will kill the animal," says Dick Mol from the Museum of Natural History in Rotterdam, and one of the scientists who excavated the skull.

"Elephants can travel 80km a night," Mol said. "If the climate is changing, and I accept that it is, then elephants will want to move. In time, they will want to move into Eurasia, as many species did in the past."

In 2010, the skull will join an exhibition on the fossil elephants that once journeyed across Europe, Asia and America.

Image © 2001 S.W. Clyde


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