Tusk of Rare Pygmy Mammoth Found on Calif. Island

Find may help solve extinction mystery
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2009 6:19 AM CST
A complete tusk believed to be from a prehistoric mammoth discovered on Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast.   (AP Photo/The Nature Conservancy, Kristina Gill)
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(Newser) – A tusk that may belong to a rare pygmy mammoth, a dwarf version of the giant elephant-like mammal that roamed the Earth thousands of years ago, has been found on Santa Cruz Island off California, reports the Los Angeles Times. The 4-foot-long tusk, more than 10,000 years old, was discovered by an archaeology student from UC Santa Barbara. Other bones were found nearby.

Researchers hope precise dating of the tusk may help determine if humans, who colonized the island 12,000 years ago, contributed to the extinction of the mammoth. The pygmy mammoth may have evolved on the island because of a smaller range and inadequate grazing. Remains of both the pygmy mammoth and larger Columbian version have been found on other Channel Islands.