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Mastodon Dig In Michigan Underway

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The hunt for the mastodon is on at the Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning in Mayville, Michigan. Archeologists, researchers, and graduate students descended on the alternative educational center Saturday, along with excavating equipment, to continue unearthing the discovery made two years ago on a field trip.

In 2014, students on a field trip hike on the Fowler Center property stumbled onto what appeared to be a large branch or a log on the riverbank, and on closer inspection, discovered it was a large bone. The center runs a year-round interactive camp for adults and kids with disabilities, with plenty of outdoor activities such as the hike. Staff members onsite could tell that the bone was not that of a deer or cow, and turned to the University of Michigan for help.

Now, the river has been diverted as a team from the University of Michigan arm themselves in preparation for the exhaustive work of digging and sifting through the mud to find the rest of the gigantic, 13,000-year-old mammal.

Mastodons are extinct cousins of modern-day elephants that roamed Michigan after the glaciers had receded from the Lower Peninsula. The humongous animals had long, curved tusks, but were herbivores that fed on leaves, twigs, and berries. It is believed that they were widely hunted by early humans.

Teachers from the Michigan Thumb area’s elementary, middle and high schools have been selected to assist in the project, which is a joint venture between the university and the center. Daniel Fisher, a professor of paleontology and director of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, is heading the dig.

Seth Colling, a part-time teacher at the learning center, said that the mastodon dig is “a dream come true.”

He was with the students who found the first bone. Since then, paleontologists have uncovered more mastodon bones that erosion has revealed.

According to Fisher, there have been some 300 mastodons and 30 wooly mammoths discovered in the Michigan area, but none so complete as the one at the Fowler Center, the Washington Times reports. The site is special because the bones are still buried in a relatively unspoiled environment, he added. Most mastodon bones have been found during excavations for buildings or roads.

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