Female mastodon bones donated to U-M - WNEM TV 5

Female mastodon bones donated to U-M

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Mastodon uncovered at Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning (Source: University of Michigan) Mastodon uncovered at Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning (Source: University of Michigan)
Mammoth discovered in Chelsea (Source: University of Michigan) Mammoth discovered in Chelsea (Source: University of Michigan)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WNEM) -

The bones of a female mastodon discovered near Grand Rapids have been donated to the University of Michigan.

A crew excavating a road through a future housing development found the remains on August 31.

Finding a female mastodon is somewhat usual, according to Daniel Fisher, director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology. Generally, skeletons from male mastodons are found, and Fisher has a theory why.

"Males, by their lifestyle, tended to be solitary, whereas females tended to live in matriarchal family groups," said Fisher, also the Claude W. Hibbard Collegiate Professor of Paleontology. "It may have been easier to ambush and surprise a solitary individual than it was to ambush and surprise a group."

This skeleton was the third such finding in three years.

Fisher uncovered a mammoth in a farmer's field in Chelsea in 2015, and his crew was also called in to uncover a mastodon in Mayville at the Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning in 2016.

>>Slideshow: Mastodon bones found in Mayville<<

Mammoths were slightly larger than mastodons, although both lived in Michigan at the same time. Although no remains have been found in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula or the Upper Peninsula.

Fisher speculates that’s because glaciers receded earlier in the southern half the state, giving more time for vegetation to move in as a food source.

Fisher said that each set of remains provides information about the animals as a species, and individually.

"To understand the history of the extinction process, we need specimens that are males, that are females, that are more advanced in life and that are younger," Fisher said. "And then there's the dimension of geological time: We need specimens long before extinction, and then later in their history, just before extinction."

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