The mastodon fossil was first discovered on a farm in 1998 by Kent and Janne Buesching, who mined peat on their property. Archaeologists then excavated the remains of the Buesching mastodon. Its skeleton, which is 9 feet (2.7 meters) high and 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, has been studied since 2006.
Further examination of the mastodon’s skull showed that it had been killed when the tip of another male mastodon’s tusk pierced the right side of its skull. He died about 100 miles from his home territory, according to a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The unique result of this study is that, for the first time, we have been able to document the annual overland migration of an individual of an extinct species,” said study first author Joshua Miller, a paleoecologist and professor. research assistant in geology. at the University of Cincinnati, in a statement.
Northeast Indiana served as a summer breeding ground for the mastodons, and the study found that this solitary creature migrated north from its home every year during the winter months for the past three years. his life. The ancient animal was around 34 years old when it died, the researchers estimated.
“Using new modeling techniques and a powerful geochemical toolkit, we were able to show that large male behemoths like Buesching migrate to mating grounds every year,” Miller said.
Daniel Fisher, co-responsible for the study, participated in the excavation of the mastodon 24 years ago. He is a professor of paleontology at the University of Michigan and director of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology.
Fisher cut a long, thin section from the center of the right defense 9.5 feet long (3 meters long). Like the study of tree rings, the analysis of the mastodon’s defense revealed how it interacted with its landscape as a teenager as well as during the last years of its life.
“You have a lifetime ahead of you in this defence. The growth and development of the animal, as well as its history of changing land use and changing behavior – all of that history is captured and recorded in the structure and defense composition,” Fisher said.
When he was younger, the behemoth stayed close to home with his female-led herd in central Indiana before splitting off and venturing out on her own, much like modern elephants. As a lone rover, the behemoth traveled about 20 miles (32 kilometers) each month.
Migration was essential for mastodons to find places where they could reproduce while living in harsh and cold climates. But it has been difficult for researchers to determine their geographic ranges.
The search for oxygen and strontium isotopes in mastodon tusks reveals part of this idea.
Mastodon tusks, like elephant tusks, have new layers of growth that form near the center throughout their life. Information about their birth can be found stored at the far end of the tusk, while their death is found in the layer at the base of the tusk.
As the mastodons munched on shrubs and trees and drank water, the chemical elements from their meals were also stored in the tusks.
Chemical analysis of tiny samples taken from different layers of the Buesching behemoth’s tusks correlated to geographic locations, as the elements changed with the landscape, as well as to seasonal fluctuations. This data was put into a movement model developed by the researchers to essentially track when, where and how far it traveled.
“Every time you came to the warm season, the Buesching juggernaut would go to the same place – bam, bam, bam – over and over. The clarity of that signal was unexpected and really exciting,” Miller said.
Next, the researchers want to study the tusks of other behemoths to see if they can make similar discoveries.