Developing The Waco Mammoth Site

I got a press release about the Waco Mammoth Site that I thought I’d pass on to you:

National Park Service Director Jarvis Participates in Public Meeting about Waco Mammoth Site

WACO, TX – Today, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis heard from the citizens of Waco regarding the community’s vision to preserve, protect and enhance the Waco Mammoth Site.

At the invitation of officials from the City of Waco and Baylor University, Jarvis joined the meeting that included significant attendance from local community members and supporters of the site who are interested in protecting the site’s unique resources. Jarvis discussed how new sites are added to the National Park System and talked about the benefits associated with becoming a National Park Service unit. In 2013, national park visitors contributed $26.5 billion to the nation’s economy and supported almost 240,000 jobs across the country.

“The Waco Mammoth Site offers an exciting opportunity to engage students, visitors and scientists alike with the story of these extinct mammoths. The enthusiasm that the community expressed for National Park Service involvement with this site at today’s public meeting is inspiring,” said Director Jarvis. “As the National Park Service looks toward our centennial next year, places like the Waco Mammoth Site provide great opportunities for more Americans to develop a lifelong relationship with parks as places where they can play and learn about amazing stories contained at sites like this.”

“The city is proud to be partnered with community leaders and Baylor University in preserving and protecting the Waco Mammoth site. We welcome the National Park Service to join us in this partnership,” said Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan, Jr. “We look forward to sharing the benefits of this collaboration with visitors from across the country for generations to come. We are very grateful for the contributions of our partners. We thank Director Jarvis and his staff for coming to look. It is our sincere hope we can share the discovery with the rest of this great country in working with the National Park Service.”

“We are proud of the Baylor University research that has contributed to unearthing this natural treasure and the long partnership we have had with the City of Waco to bring attention to this rare and valuable discovery,” said Baylor University President and Chancellor Judge Ken Starr. “We are honored by the visit of National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and we thank him for his efforts to learn more about the Waco Mammoth Site and to consider our deeply held hope to make it a National Park Service unit.”

Congress directed the National Park Service to conduct a special resource study of the Waco Mammoth Site, which was completed in 2008. It confirmed that the Waco Mammoth resources are nationally significant, worthy of permanent preservation and suitable and feasible for inclusion in the national park system.

Generally, Congress must pass legislation to establish a new unit of the National Park System. The first step in that process is usually a National Park Service study, like the special resource study completed in 2008 for the Waco Mammoth site. The President can also establish new units through the use of the Antiquities Act, which allows the President to designate a site as a national monument.

In 1978, Columbian Mammoth fossils were first discovered at the site, and it remains the nation’s first and only recorded discovery of a nursery herd (females and their offspring) of Pleistocene mammoths. The remains of 24 mammoths have been found to date, 19 of which were part of the nursery herd, and more remains from the Ice Age are likely in the area. The nursery herd died at the same moment in time as a result of a natural catastrophic event, the skeletons are relatively intact, and the individual mammoths range in age from 3 to 65 years old.The site offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to examine the matriarchal herd structure and behavior of this extinct species. For example, juvenile mammoth skeletons rest atop the long tusks of adults, suggesting that the adults were trying to save their offspring from the rising waters and sucking mud. The site has already revealed other Ice Age fossils, including camel, saber-toothed cat, dwarf antelope, and giant tortoise.

Comments

  1. #1 Craig Thomas
    April 7, 2015

    This may be a stupid question…but I’ll ask anyway:
    Are these bones, or are they fossils?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    April 7, 2015

    Ha! Not a stupid question at all! Very good question.

    The way we often use the term “fossil” they are fossils because they are old, in the ground, etc.

    We also refer to extinct organisms as fossil species, so these could be bones of fossil species, which kinda makes them fossils even if they are bones.

    But technically a fossil is an organic thing, a part of a living thing, that has undergone diagenesis. This is the process of mineral replacement. Chances are the apatite fraction of these bones, the mineral phase of the bone, is original or partly replaced, and the protein part of the bone is rotted away though there may be bits and pieces left.

    I would guess that these are either bones or “subfossils” …. meaning some diagenesis.

    Even items regarded as “true fossils” though may have molecules from the original bone, though.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    April 7, 2015

    OK, I looked at some of the info on the site. See:

    https://baylor-ir.tdl.org/baylor-ir/bitstream/handle/2104/5047/John_Bongino_masters.pdf?sequence=2

    It appears that the bones that have been looked at closely (attempts to date them with C14, for example) have some original material in both the mineral and collagen phases of the bone, but a lot is replaced or missing. So I’d call these subfossils, as a guess.

  4. #4 Brainstorms
    April 7, 2015

    Bones have an appetite for apatite… So, okay, it kinda still makes sense! :^D

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    April 7, 2015

    Damn you autoconnect!

  6. #6 elelwani tshikovhi
    pretoria
    April 8, 2015

    Wow wat a life time discovery. Are they going to be put in. Museum? 14047366

  7. #7 elelwani Tshikovhi
    April 8, 2015

    Wow wat a life time discovery . are they going to be put in a museum?

  8. #8 Damon Xavier Laurent
    South Africa
    April 8, 2015

    I am interested to know whether or not these fossils will remain in their preserved state in the locations which they were found, or if they will be moved to another area for further study? If so, would the Park still qualify as part of the National Park System?

  9. #9 Craig Thomas
    April 8, 2015

    Some of the bones were removed in the 80s.
    Subsequent finds have been left in place with a visitors’ centre built around and over them.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    April 8, 2015

    Yes, some moved some not but either way the site could not easily be delisted.

  11. #11 Nat
    United States
    April 9, 2015

    Note the name of Baylor’s President: yes, that Ken Starr. Also, Waco is pretty much the center of the Bible Belt and home to more than a fair share of creationists. I suspect the event that took the nursery was the Flood instead of a flood, and thereby contributed to the whole community embracing this find.

  12. #12 Elelwani Tshikovhi
    pta
    April 9, 2015

    I know that i ice age happened almost 2.6 million years ago . would you date this fossils to that or you have specific date you found?14047366

  13. #13 Lizanne Lombard
    South Africa
    April 9, 2015

    A catastrophic event regarding the nursery herd was mentioned. Is it correct to assume that it may have been flooding, since the words “rising waters and sucking mud” are mentioned?
    (15035744)

  14. #14 Ethanne Liam Soar (u14148898)
    South Africa, Pretoria
    April 12, 2015

    It is incredible to hear of such discoveries such as these and i would like to know how this disovery was made? I would also like to know if there have been other discoveries like these and how such discoveries come about? Is it by chance or do scientists know of areas to explore?

    I am a bit confused about the differences between fossils and bones still. I read the comments explaining this but am still a bit unsure. Are fossils basically bones that are very old and that have been found?

    I am interested to read more about this topic if other people could please answer my quetions and give more information that they know on this topic. I would also like to know the answe for Lizanne Lombards question please, as well as Elewanis question.

  15. #15 FJ van Heerden
    South Africa
    April 12, 2015

    I think it’s safe to assume that Lizanne.
    Ethanne, not all fossils are bones; see the middle of comment number 2.

    Pleistocene megafauna intrigues me, so I have my own question: Can one immediately differentiate the remains as being either those of a mastodon or those of a mammoth based just on the bones themselves?

    (u15058167)

  16. #16 Amukelani mhlaba (u15058698)
    PRETORIA
    April 12, 2015

    Wow! this is one of the most amazing and intriguing discoveries i have ever heard of.Sites like these should be well preserved and i personally think that the discovered fossils should not be moved to museums instead they should be left where they were found

  17. #17 Quintin Rancatis
    April 16, 2015

    When was the first mammoth found in the U.S and was Texas a prime area for mammoths to live?

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2015

    Quintin, I’m not sure. An early mastodon in the US was 1705, in Claverack, NY, said to be the first, but there is a mastodon or mammoth (not sure) from Cambridge MA during the 17th century, so I’d not want to say for sure. I simply don’t know when the first mammoth find is.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2015

    OH, and Texas was not really a prime area. The entire continent had these beasts all over the place. Texas would be good but lots of other places too.

  20. #20 Katlego Ntshudisane
    Pretoria
    April 18, 2015

    The development of the Mammoth site is a great initiative. The preservation of fossils is highly important as it allows individuals to acquire knowledge about prehistoric times that will help broaden our knowledge about current times. (u14018676)