January 15, 2009

Ancient tusk found on Santa Cruz Island

University of California scientists say they may have found a complete mammoth tusk on California's Santa Cruz Island.

An archeology graduate student at University of California, Santa Barbara discovered the 4-foot-long tusk along the island's northern shore, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. Researchers hope the discovery will provide insight into the evolution of pygmy mammoths.

The report said scientists believe 14-foot-tall mammoths swam out to the Channel Islands nearly 20,000 years ago and shrank over time to the size of a pony.

This is the most substantial and significant find of mammoth remains on Santa Cruz Island, Lotus Vermeer, who heads the Nature Conservancy's Santa Cruz Island project, told the newspaper.

A researcher who consulted with the Nature Conservancy, however, said the remains could be those of a marine animal.

Santa Cruz is the largest of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.