Mammoths stomp through downtown

There were mammoths in San Diego! And not just any old mammoths – Columbian mammoths, 12 feet high at the shoulder, one of the biggest elephant-creatures ever to live! (In comparison, average shoulder height for an African elephant is 10 feet in males.)

As reported by Kelly Davis in Last Blog on Earth, excavations for a downtown homeless shelter found a 8-foot-long Columbian Mammoth tusk. The U-T says that it’s between 100,000 and 500,000 years old, and proof that mammoths did indeed roam these here parts.

I really, really love the Pleistocene megafauna – the giant mammals and birds that roamed North America until becoming extinct only 12,000 years ago. (In contrast, the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago.) There were American lions and camels and giant armadillos and sabre-tooth tigers.

But my favorite creature of all time is the giant ground sloth, 20 feet high with foot-long claws, which ambled slowly about munching plants. There’s a theory that giant ground sloths are what brought us the avocado – they were the only herbivore big enough to pass an avocado pit. The La Brea tar pits has an especially fine assortment of sloth fossils as well as very silly fibreglass sloth statues in the adjacent park.

If you don’t want to go all the way up to LA, the San Diego Natural History Museum has a great local fossil exhibit, with sloths, sabre-tooth cats, dire wolves, giant sea cows, and more. Hopefully the new mammoth tusk will be on display soon.

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