Friday, March 08, 2013

Proboscideans Rule!

Last night Connie and I went to the premiere of a special exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science called "Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age." It's a very nice exhibit with lots of good stuff but I was somewhat disappointed at how the Museum limited what you could photograph. Among the nice things in the exhibit that you could photograph were some very realistic life-sized models of Pleistocene animals like this mammoth. It's obvious they decided to portray one of the less woolly species.

I think my favorite might have been this monstrous short-faced bear (Arctodus simus). Look at the man on the right for scale. I believe Valerius Geist has a theory that ultra top-end predators like this one made it difficult for humans to colonize the New World. I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere near something like that.

There was also this scimitar-toothed cat (Homotherium serum) about the size of a mountain lion. I thought it was kind of cool that they chose this instead of the more obvious sabre-toothed cat.

They also had this cast of a mastodon mount. The area around this part of the exhibit had quite a bit of material about the amazing Pleistocene fossil finds the Museum has made in the sediments of an old lake near the Snowmass ski area near Aspen. Museum PR people have started calling that operation "Snowmastodon." I was also disappointed I couldn't take pictures of the spectacular cranium and horns of a Bison latifrons found there.

There was a big section with lots of good stuff on human interaction with mammoths and mastodons. There were large collections of American Clovis points and beautiful Aurignacian and Solutrean tools from the European Paleolithic that were all off-limits for photography. It was also thrilling to see this famous engraving of a mammoth on mammoth ivory from the French rock-shelter of La Madeleine. I pinched this picture from another source. They also presented photographs of the mammoth engraving found in Vero Beach, Florida that I posted about here

Here's Connie standing in front of a model of a pygmy mammoth (Mammuthus exilis) from the California Channel Islands. Connie and I have seen life-sized models and skeletal mounts of these in the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and we both believe that this is a bit larger than those. One of the earliest posts I did on this blog was on pygmy mammoths. It has a picture of a partially excavated skeleton of an adult pygmy mammoth - see what you think.


Nathaniel Fitch said...

Homotherium is perhaps my favorite felid, with the Caracal giving it a run for its money.

Nathaniel Fitch said...

Here's one of my favorite reconstructions of the cat:

Steve Bodio said...

My first thought was "Mine, too.."; the second was that this was one of the few blogs where people might legitimately claim
"favorite Pleistocene cats".

I'll post a pic of my favorite image above.

Mark Farrell-Churchill said...

Cheers for an accurate description that is also a terrific oxymoron: the pygmy mammoth.

Mark Farrell-Churchill said...

Cheers for an accurate description that is also a brilliant oxymoron: the pygmy mammoth!