Washington State Fossil
Columbian Mammoth (common name)
Mammuthus columbi (scientific name)
Mammuthus columbi is an extinct species of elephant that lived in the Pleistocene epoch of the Quaternary period, approximately 10,000 to one million years ago. The last two ice ages occurred in this epoch. The Columbian mammoth, along with mastodons and modern elephants, belongs to the taxonomic order Proboscidea.Mammuthus columbi inhabited what is now the United States, and south as far as present-day Honduras. Today, its fossils are common in the western United States and Mexico.
Mammuthus columbi fossils have been found throughout the state of Washington, in particular on the Olympic Peninsula. Thanks to the efforts of a group of students from Windsor Elementary School in Spokane, the Columbian mammoth was proposed as the Washington state fossil. In 1998, four years after their initial proposal, the students got their wish and the state legislature passed a bill designating Mammuthus columbi the official Washington state fossil.
Scottish geologist and paleontologist Hugh Falconer named the species Mammuthus columbi in 1857. British anatomist and naturalist Joshua Brookes named the genus Mammuthus in 1828. The English word mammoth comes from the Russian word мамонт.
All mammoths had thick layers of long hair and undercoats of wool. One of the largest elephants as well as one of the largest mammoths to have ever lived, Mammuthus columbi reached a height of approximately 13 feet (4 m) and a weight of up to 11 short tons (10 metric tons). The long, spiraled tusks of this prehistoric elephant averaged 6.5 feet (2.0 m) in length. Like its modern relatives the Indian and African elephants, Mammuthus columbi was an herbivore, feeding on conifers, grasses, rushes, and large fruits. Its teeth were well adapted for chewing tough vegetation, and this giant ate up to 700 pounds (320 kg) daily.
Mammoths first entered North America via the temporary Bering Land Bridge during the last ice age, approximately one million years ago. Mammuthus columbi evolved from this early species. The latest known Mammuthus columbi specimen is about 7,800 years old. This makes the Columbian mammoth one of the last species of American megafauna to become extinct.
Scientists do not know definitively what killed the mammoths. Theories as to what caused the great extinction at the end of the last ice age include climate change, overhunting by humans, a deadly virus, or perhaps some combination of these factors. Mammuthus columbi is generally considered to have died out about 7,800 years ago, around the same time that many other North American mammals became extinct.
The largest number of Mammuthus columbi skeletons believed to have died at the same time is located at Waco Mammoth Site in Waco, Texas. At The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota, the remains of 50 Columbian mammoths and three woolly mammoths have been discovered. Mammuthus columbi fossils were discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California, and the site’s George C. Page Museum contains a skeleton of this mammoth.
A Columbian mammoth starred in the BBC documentary series Wild New World, known in the United States as Prehistoric America. This television program explored Ice Age America and originally aired in the United Kingdom in 2002.
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|Author: World Trade Press|