It’s reasonably well known that fighting male deer are sometimes unable to extricate themselves after tangling their antlers together. Mammoths – which had more strongly curved tusks that living elephants – sometimes had a similar problem, as demonstrated by the famous fighting mammoths from Crawford, Sioux County, Nebraska…
Yes, this fossil is for real (it’s accessioned in Washington, D.C. as USNM 2449). The animals belong to the North American species Mammuthus columbi and must have died after becoming locked together. The fossil has been figured a few times since Boucot (1990) discussed it, most recently in Lister & Bahn (2007), the substantially revised edition of their 1994 Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age. Apparently there’s a ‘Schultz 1963′ that provides more information, but I can’t find this reference (let me know if you track it down). I also recall reading that a squashed fossil canid was preserved beneath one of the specimens (seriously) but cannot locate reference to this in the literature.
If there is an intelligent creator*, it sure does have a fantastic sense of humour.
* Not that I think there is, you understand.
Refs – –
Boucot, A. J. 1990. Evolutionary Paleobiology of Behaviour and Coevolution. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Lister, A. & Bahn, P. 2007. Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age. Frances Lincoln Ltd, London.