Did Ancient Americans Hunt Mammoths?

In 1915, construction workers made a startling discovery in Vero Beach, Florida. Did ancient Americans live alongside mammoths? Did they hunt these and other giant extinct creatures from the Pleistocene epoch?

When did Ancient Americans reach the Americas?

According to the International Union of Geological Sciences, the Pleistocene epoch started 2,588,000 years ago and ended 11,700 years ago. Many animals of that age, such as mammoths, mastodons, and giant ground sloths, were larger than their modern relatives.

In 1913, workers unearthed some vertebrate fossils in Vero Beach while building a drainage canal. Recognizing them as from the Pleistocene epoch, Dr. E.H. Sellards asked the workers to keep a lookout for more remains. In 1915, the workers struck a veritable gold mine. They found at least five separate skeletons as well as numerous stone tools.

A major controversy soon erupted. The discoveries seemed to indicate that modern man had inhabited the Americas prior to 10,000 BC, which conflicted with prevailing opinion. Roughly half the scientists who examined the remains took this stance. The other half thought the skeletons came from a later era and were merely buried in the same layer of soil as the Pleistocene animals. Since dating techniques didn’t exist at the time, it was impossible to prove one way or the other. Eventually, the skeptics won the debate.

Did Ancient Americans Hunt Mammoths?

In 2009, archaeologists discovered a strange carving on a piece of bone in Vero Beach. The bone appeared to depict a mammoth or a mastodon. While the bone could not be dated, the accuracy of the drawing along with the mineralization of the bone itself led scholars to rethink the possibility of people living in the Americas during the Pleistocene epoch.

“There was considerable skepticism expressed about the authenticity of the incising on the bone until it was examined exhaustively by archaeologists, paleontologists, forensic anthropologists, materials science engineers and artists.” ~ Barbara Purdy, University of Florida

Now, a team of researchers led by Bruce MacFadden and Barbara Purdy have reexamined some of the old Vero Beach bones. Using rare earth element analysis, they’ve gathered significant evidence that people co-existed with large extinct animals such as mammoths in the Americas about 13,000 years ago.

“The uptake of rare earth elements is time-dependent, so an old fossil is going to have very different concentrations of rare earth elements than bones from a more recent human burial. We found the human remains have statistically the same concentrations of rare earth elements as the fossils.” ~ Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum Vertebrate Paleontology Curator

It should be noted this isn’t a sure thing. Rare earth element analysis is less precise than radiocarbon dating. Still, the evidence is hard to ignore. In all likelihood, people roamed the Americas as early as 13,000 years ago, side by side with mammoths and other animals that today only live in our imagination.

More Dinosaurs with Feathers?

The popular image of dinosaurs – gray, dull, and scaly – has remained unchanged for decades. But new evidence over the last few years suggests a completely different picture. Did dinosaur feathers really exist?

Dinosaur Feathers – Did they Exist?

Well, yes, it appears at least some dinosaurs were covered with colorful feathers. First, there was the Dilong paradoxus. Then there were those 11 dinosaurs feathers found in western Canada. Now, scholars claim that Yutyrannus huali, a distant predecessor to Tyrannosaurus Rex, sported a full set of feathers as well. Here’s more on dinosaur feathers from Wired:

It’s not your father’s tyrannosaur: Yutyrannus huali, a newly discovered ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex, was covered from head to tail in downy feathers. At 30 feet long and weighing 3,000 pounds, Y. huali wasn’t so large as T. rex, which came 60 million years later, but it’s the largest feathered tyrannosaur yet found…

The discovery provides “direct evidence for the presence of extensively feathered gigantic dinosaurs,” wrote paleontologists led by Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in their description of the new dinosaur, published April 5 in Nature. ‘Instead of giant lizards, they were basically weird birds.’

(See Wired for more on dinosaur feathers)

Dinosaurs…with Feathers?

In popular media, dinosaurs are often portrayed as large, lumbering creatures with leathery, drab, gray skin. But a shocking new find suggests that this might be incorrect. Were dinosaurs really covered in…fluffy, colorful feathers?

Did Dinosaurs have Feathers?

It’s a story seemingly ripped from the pages of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. While working in western Canada, a team of scientists led by Ryan McKellar discovered strange remnants encased in amber. Out of some 4,000 samples, he pulled eleven dinosaur feathers which range from 70 to 90 million years old and “include simple filament structures similar to the earliest feathers of non-flying dinosaurs — a form unknown in modern birds — and more complicated bird feathers ‘displaying pigmentation and adaptations for flight and diving.'”

“Now, instead of scaly animals portrayed as usually drab creatures, we have solid evidence for a fluffy colored past.” ~ Dr. Mark A. Norell, American Museum of Natural History, New York

Good lord. So, what kind of colors are we talking about here? Red? Blue? Dare I say pink? No, nothing like that. It turns out the feathers contain certain trace metals, which suggest that they were once colored black, brown, and a reddish-brown.

As for which dinosaurs sported these feathers, well, we don’t know for certain and there’s a good chance that they came from an as-yet-to-be-identified species. However, we do know that they lived toward the end of the Cretaceous Period. At that particular moment in time, “the forerunners of birds were well on their way to taking wing.” But that doesn’t mean these recently discovered feathers were used for flight. Most likely, they were used for thermal regulation instead.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

As with all new discoveries, it’s important to take these findings with a grain of salt. Eleven feathers, after all, can only tell us so much. Still, the discovery indicates that creatures with primitive feather structures may have been living in the same era as creatures with more advanced structures. If true, this would change the way scientists currently view feather evolution.

Also, over the past few years scientists have gathered an increasingly large body of evidence indicating that feathers were “a fundamental and widespread characteristic” among certain types of dinosaurs. Although fossil feather research is still in its infancy, future advancements may allow us to determine the exact pigments of these feathers. When that happens, the dull gray dinosaurs of our imagination might just give way to a brand new world of magnificently colored beasts.

What killed the Dinosaurs?

Sixty-five and a half million years ago, dinosaurs vanished from the earth. The fate of these magnificent beasts remains a mystery to this day. However, new evidence has recently emerged that might help solve this mystery once and for all. So, what killed the dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs & the Mysterious K-Pg Boundary?

Dinosaurs roamed the earth for about 160 million years, encompassing large parts of the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. While the size, shape, and features of dinosaurs varied extensively, they all share one thing in common. Sixty-five and a half million years ago, all non-avian dinosaurs perished in the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, or the K-Pg extinction event. The K-Pg boundary is a layer of sediment in the earth’s crust that marks the switch from the Cretaceous Period (K) to the Paleogene Period (Pg). Non-avian dinosaur bones are never found above this layer, which indicates that dinosaurs became extinct at or before the same time it was created.

Did an Asteroid or Comet Kill off the Dinosaurs?

In 1980, the father/son team of Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered that the K-Pg boundary contained iridium, an element not usually found in the earth’s crust. After eliminating other possible sources, they concluded that the iridium most likely arrived via comet or asteroid. Although hotly contested at first, this theory later found broad acceptance due to the announced discovery of the Chicxulub Crater. The crater, located under Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, measures over 110 miles in diameter. Most scientists today believe that an asteroid or comet, measuring over six miles in diameter, impacted the earth sixty-five and a half million years ago. In the process, it created the crater and drove the dinosaurs to extinction.

The Problematic “Fossil Gap”?

However, not everyone believes the official story. These individuals point to the fact that dinosaur bones become less frequent as they approach the K-Pg boundary. Also, there is a “fossil gap” since no bones have ever been found within the boundary itself. Taken together, these things indicate that the extinction predated the impact at Chicxulub. If this is the case, then dinosaurs were probably killed off more gradually, by things such as a volcanic winter, the Deccan traps, falling sea levels, and/or climate change.

That brings us to the present. While working in Montana, a team of Yale scholars recently discovered a dinosaur bone just thirteen centimeters below the K-Pg boundary. This marks the closest a bone has ever been found to the boundary, beating the old record by twenty-four centimeters. The discovery, made by Yale anthropologist Eric Sargis and graduate student Stephen Chester, indicates that dinosaurs were still alive a few thousand years before the impact event.

“Here we have a specimen that basically goes right up to the boundary, indicating that at least some dinosaurs were doing fine.” ~ Tyler Lyson, Paleontologist, Yale University

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The discovery is exciting and lends weight to the theory that dinosaurs were still alive at the time of the impact event. However, it hasn’t ended the debate as to what killed the dinosaurs. This particular bone could’ve easily belonged to one of the few remaining dinosaurs as they gradually became extinct. Unfortunately, without more bones there’s no way to be sure.

In March 2010, forty-one experts from across the globe reviewed evidence in the fields of paleontology, geochemistry, climate modeling, geophysics, and sedimentology. They concluded that a giant asteroid caused the Chicxulub crater, triggering mass extinctions of the dinosaurs. So, it would appear that there is a sort of scientific consensus in support of the impact theory.

But does that even matter? History is full of scientific consensuses that were later overturned. Heck, thirty years ago, no one believed that an asteroid caused dinosaurs to go extinct. Now, its the most popular opinion. Who knows what the next thirty years will bring?