Friday, April 29, 2016

WOOLLY MAMMOTH: Warmth and Hospitality

Best known of the Ice Age Mammals, Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) received her name from her outer layer of long hair. Underneath that layer, She had another dense inner layer of fur. To cope with the icy temperatures, Woolly Mammoth had a compact body, a high domed head and small ears.

Woolly Mammoth had a shorter but more flexible trunk than other Mammoths. At the end of her trunk was a finger-like appendage as well as another protuberance. She used these to gather grasses and other plants for eating.

The smallest of Mammoths, Woolly Mammoth had extra long tusks. These ornate twisting tusks had many uses. For example, She could dig up plants and clear snow with them. Also, Woolly Mammoth could fight off predators with her tusks by bashing the attacking animal with them. Her tusks were like tree rings, telling her age and life experience.

Meanwhile, Paleo-peoples used the tusks of Woolly Mammoth to construct their homes. Many of their houses were built from her large bones and woolly hides. In one homestead found in Ukraine, the skulls of Woolly Mammoths, placed in a semi-circle, formed the base walls. Then the jaws were used to erect the upper parts of the walls. For the entrance, they used the leg bones of Woolly Mammoth. She provided shelter for them on the flat, treeless plains.

The last known Mammoth lived about 4,000 years ago on a small island near Siberia during the Stone Age. Many people believe that Woolly Mammoth went extinct through overhunting. However others think that as the world’s climate became warm; She could not survive adequately on the new plants. Whatever the reason, Woolly Mammoth became the icon for extinction from overhunting during the Ice Age.

Woolly Mammoth exudes warmth and hospitality. Meeting others during migrations, She greets Them with touching and trumpeting with her trunk. Furthermore, Woolly Mammoth would wait for laggards as well, welcoming Them back into the herd.

Learn from Woolly Mammoth about proper hospitality and warmth. She teaches us how to care for and welcome others into our hearth and home. However do not so be taken advantage of that you end up giving up everything you have. You can be flexible but also wary.

(Note: update of post from 2010.)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mastodon Family: Look Closer and Think.

Often confused with Mammoths, Mastodons (Mammutidae) are in their own family, since They split off from Elephants and Mammoths earlier. Therefore, there are many differences between the two Animals. Mastodons have larger and flatter brows than Mammoths. Moreover, They have paired low conical cusps for teeth, and upper jaw tusks. In addition, Mastodons are shorter and more muscular than Mammoths. Scientists have liken Them to a bus, whereas Mammoths are more like construction cranes.

Living side by side with Mammoths, Mastodons colonized Eurasia and North America about fifteen million years ago. As browsers, They preferred to live in spruce forests and open woodlands. During the winter, Mastodons had a double coat of fur to prevent Them from freezing in the icy cold. However, they preferred warmer climates to live in.

Fossil Mastodons have been found with full stomachs, indicating that They consumed about 500 pounds (1,000 kilos) of food each day. Since their enormous appetites drove Them to seek more and more food, Mastodons roamed the countryside endlessly searching for food. Mastodons tramped through forests to feast on moss and twigs of cedar, larch, pine, and spruce trees. Their hunger drove Them deeper into bogs and swamps in search of food, where They died.

Mastodons teach to look closer and think. Do not mistake Them for their cousins, the Mammoths. Examine the differences before making a judgment. If you do not ponder what you see, you may mindlessly end up stuck in a bog. Take care in what you do.

Update from a previous 2010 posting

Friday, April 01, 2016

Prehistoric Elephant Family: Partnership

(Deinotheres, Elephants, Mammoths, and Mastodons)

Of the myriad Trunked Mammals who once roamed the earth, only African and Asian Elephants still remain today.  At one time, Proboscids (Trunked Mammals) lived everywhere except Antarctica and Australia.  Spreading from Africa where They originated, these Mammals flourished during the Miocene Period (from 20 million years ago (mya) to 5 mya).  Since many Proboscids were not immune to the cold, only a few survived the Ice Age.

Trunked Mammals have a long complex evolutionary history.  Beginning as small herbivores sixty mya, these Mammals resembled modern Pigmy Hippos.  For example, Moeritherium did look like a small Hippo but possessed a flexible upper lip and snout like an Elephant.  Then a cousin, Deinotherium appeared alongside the Gomphotheres (Early Elephants) about fifteen mya. Many of the Gomphotheres had flat tusks to shovel plants out of soft swampy ground. In addition, They used their trunks to uproot trees.

Mastodons split off from the Elephant Family (which also includes Mammoths). Unlike Mammoths, Mastodons had cheek teeth with low-rounded crowns. Meanwhile, Mammoths had the most highly evolved of elephantine teeth. Because of the grinding surfaces of their teeth, Mammoths could eat grasses whilst Mastodons searched the trees for tender leaves. Mastodons preferred warm climates to the Mammoths’ cold ones.

The Family of Trunked Mammals has been a part of human history from the very beginning.  Both Humans and Proboscids evolved together in Africa.  Later both spread out of Africa to populate the world.  When Paleo-humans needed food and shelter, they hunted Trunked Mammals.  They also built their homes from the bones and hides of various Proboscids. To honor Them, Paleo-peoples painted the likenesses of Mammoths and Mastodons on cave walls.

The infant science of paleontology became advanced through the study of Proboscids’ teeth and bones.  Since Trunked Mammals were widely distributed around the world, early scientists could trace their evolution.  Because Proboscid fossils were plentiful and readily available, early naturalists could learn their craft from these fossils.

Throughout the ages, humans entered into a partnership with various Trunked Mammals.  As each developed, They learned from each other.  Proboscids provided for humans and taught them basic life skills.  In return, Humans honored Them. The lesson of Trunked Mammals is that a partnership is one of equals.  We need to be good partners as They have taught us and protect their living representatives.  Today all that remain are endangered.

Science Note: Manatees, dugongs, and hyraxes are the closest living relatives of elephants. They are descended from Moeritherium.

(Updated from earlier 2010 blog.)