Mammoth skeleton found in LA
Los Angeles - The nearly complete
skeleton of a massive Columbian mammoth who died during the
last ice age has been dug out of a construction site near the
La Brea Tar Pits in downtown Los Angeles, a remarkable find
even in the fossil-rich area, scientists said.
The mammoth, dubbed "Zed" by researchers at the Page Museum
at the La Brea Tar Pits, likely died in his late 40s some
40 000 years ago and was found near an unprecedented treasure
trove of fossils that workers stumbled upon while digging the
foundation for an underground parking garage.
"What makes this so special, so exciting for us is that Zed
is a complete specimen," laboratory supervisor Shelley Cox said
while showing off his dirt-encrusted, dinner table-sized brown
pelvic bone for reporters.
"And he's really big compared to the mammoths we've
recovered from La Brea before," Cox said. "The tusks are
considerably larger than anything we had expected."
'A rare find'
The Columbian mammoth was a species of elephant that became
extinct near the end of the last ice age.
Included in the cache of fossils were some 700 specimens,
including a large prehistoric American Lion skull, lion bones,
bones from dire wolves, sabre-toothed cats, juvenile horse and
bison, teratorn, coyotes, lynx and ground sloths.
The discovery is expected to double the size of the
Though the La Brea Tar Pits, in the city's mid-Wilshire
district, are the site of the richest ice age deposits in the
world, many fossils pulled out of the dirt and asphalt-like
muck are jumbled with other bones. Mammoths are a rare find.
Like all animals discovered at the site, Zed became stuck
in a tar pit along a river bed and ultimately died of
exhaustion or starvation.
Skeleton '80% complete'
Researchers believe his skeleton remained largely intact
because soon after he died he was washed away by a flood and
then covered by enough sediment, sand and debris to keep
predators from making off with parts of the carcass.
They estimate his skeleton is 80 percent complete, missing
only a hind leg and a vertebrae. While most mammoth tusks,
which are made up of fragile material called dentine, are only
found in small chunks, Zed's are intact and a remarkable
Examination of Zed's bones shows he was between 47 and 49
years old, suffered from arthritis and had broken three ribs
during his lifetime, possibly in fights with other mammoths.
Carbon dating is expected to show he lived between 38 000
and 42 000 years ago and had long lain under a department store