Mountain News 

Ice Age discoveries now move into labs

DENVER, Colo. -Two weeks ago, a skull and tusks of a Columbia mammoth found in a reservoir site at Snowmass Village were delicately loaded onto a truck for shipment to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, some four hours away. Encased in plaster, the specimen weighed almost precisely 450 kilograms, said Kirk Johnson, chief curator at the museum.

Now, after two feverish stints of digging - for a month last fall, after the first Ice Age fossils were found, and then again for 48 days this spring and summer - the work is moving indoors as museum staff and volunteers preserve nearly 5,000 bones.

Altogether, 28 species of animals were found at the site, many of them extinct species, such as the bison with a horn span of up to 2.5-metres feet. Solitary, unlike the herd animals of today, the bison then were half again as large as those of today, said Johnson.

The most frequent bones, especially at the lowest level of the ancient lake, were those of mastodons, a species similar to the elephants of today. They had teeth adapted to browsing the fibrous matter of trees.

However, the most important news may yet to be announced, after the tiny evidence - seeds, pollen, and spores, as well as the chemical composition of the lake itself - are examined.

All along, scientists have said that the site, because of its elevation at nearly 2,700-metres and remarkably preserved sediments, may expand the understanding of the climatic variations in the Rocky Mountains that occurred 150,000 to 50,000 years ago. It was basically a warm period, growing cooler toward the end as the North Hemisphere entered into its most recent ice age.

By understanding the climatic variability of the warm period on Earth, they say, we may better understand what is natural - and unnatural - about our own changing climate.

These new theories may not coalesce for two or three years, although scientists say some of their preliminary conclusions may be offered later this year at professional conferences.

More Ice Age bones found in Colorado

PONCHA SPRINGS, Colo. - Excavation has begun of the bones of ice age animals from a gravel pit near the hamlet of Villa Grove, located at the north end of Colorado's San Luis Valley.

Curators from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science told the Mountain Mail that the bones were about 25,000 years old, from a time when glaciers dominated Colorado's highest mountains. Bones from two mammoths, an elephant-like species that later became extinct, a camel and several small animals were found in the gravel pit.

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