New species of mastodon discovered in California

**New species of mastodon discovered in California
Left side view of a skull of Mammut pacificus, from Dooley et al. 2019.

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the U.S. has discovered a new species of mastodon. In their paper uploaded to the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ, the group describes discovering the new species and why it has only just been found.

Mastodon were that resembled modern elephants. They existed during parts of the Miocene and Pleistocene epochs, and were related to mammoths. They have been extinct for approximately 3000 years. Scientists have known of their existence for approximately 200 years—and they have been studied extensively, which makes the discovery of a very much a surprise.

The new discovery did not come about due to a new dig—indeed, the bones that gave evidence of the new have been held in several museums throughout California for over 20 years. The discovery was accidental—some of the team members were doing a study of teeth and found differences between the samples in California and those that were from other parts of North America. Those in California had molars that were smaller and less wide compared to those from mastodons in other places. This finding prompted the team to take a closer look, which revealed that the specimens also had more vertebrae, lacked a lower tusk and had femurs that were somewhat different.

The California fossils were found at Diamond Valley Lake in the 1990s, where 100,000 skeletal fossils were unearthed—the area is now covered over by an emergency water reservoir, so it is unlikely that more will be found. The researchers note that in addition to the obvious physical differences, there is evidence that the animals living in California were isolated from other species for thousands of years, and that they lived during the Pleistocene. They suspect there are also . The researchers claim that the cumulative evidence strongly points to the discovery of a new species, making it the first new North American mastodon species reported in 50 years. Other researchers will have to review the work and conduct studies of their own before the new find can be officially recognized as a new species: Mammoth pacificus.

**New species of mastodon discovered in California
Mammut pacificus sp. nov., WSC 18743, holotype cranium and tusks. Cranium in: (A) dorsal, (B) ventral, (C) left lateral, (D) right lateral, (E) posterior, (F) distal end of left tusk (I1), lateral, and (G) right tusk (I1), lateral view. Teeth include left and right M2–M3. (A–E) are images of a resin cast of the holotype cranium on exhibit at the Western Science Center. All images are orthographic views of photogrammetric models. Scale = 10 cm. Credit: PeerJ (2019). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6614

Explore further

Colorado fossils shed light on ice age mastodons

More information: Alton C. Dooley et al. Mammut pacificus sp. nov., a newly recognized species of mastodon from the Pleistocene of western North America, PeerJ (2019). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6614
Journal information: PeerJ

Provided by Science X Network

© 2019 Science X Network

Citation: New species of mastodon discovered in California (2019, March 29) retrieved 22 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-species-mastodon-california.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
511 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 29, 2019
"They have been extinct for approximately 3000 years..."

-Perhaps you mean mammoth? Because mastodons apparently

"inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 to 11,000yrs..."

Mar 29, 2019
@otto
Perhaps you mean mammoth?
not per the study
This new taxon differs from the contemporaneous M. americanum
All known Pleistocene Mammut remains from California are consistent with our diagnosis of M. pacificus, which indicates that M. americanum was not present in California

Mar 29, 2019
"Mastodons (Greek: μαστός "breast" and ὀδούς, "tooth") are any species of extinct proboscideans in the genus Mammut (family Mammutidae), distantly related to elephants, that inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 to 11,000 years ago..."

-but stumpy seems to be saying that this particular subspecies

"All known Pleistocene Mammut remains from California are consistent with our diagnosis of M. pacificus, which indicates that M. americanum was not present in California"

-actually lived to the time when all this was going on...
https://nativeame...iary/994

???

-and also while

"During the American megafaunal extinction event around 12,700 years ago, 90 genera of mammals weighing over 44 kilograms became extinct."

-so that M. pacificus was the only megafaunal animal left alive for over 9,000 years?

Mar 29, 2019
All those textbook numbers from the 80s are likely to be quite invalid. Much like a lot of the other science aside from electrical from those times.

Mar 29, 2019
All those textbook numbers from the 80s are likely to be quite invalid. Much like a lot of the other science aside from electrical from those times.
What makes you think ALL those 'textbook' numbers are from the 80s and havent been validated since?

Im looking at the refs from the page I got these numbers from and most all are from the last 20 years.
https://en.wikipe...egafauna

Mar 29, 2019
@otto
but stumpy seems to be saying that this particular subspecies...-actually lived to the time when all this was going on...
https://nativeame...iary/994
actually, I am just reiterating what the study stated, which is why I very specifically included the phrase "per the study"
...I also have questions

it's not unfeasible that they existed in small numbers until they died out entirely. it rather reminds me of some modern species hanging on by the skin of their teeth or tusks (whatever)

Mar 29, 2019
Yeah so I skimmed the article and the authors do say this

"In recent decades, our knowledge of mastodon anatomy has made strides (Green, 2006; Fisher, 2008, 2009; Hodgson et al., 2008a) as has our understanding of their disappearance within the context of the late Pleistocene extinction of the North American megafauna..."

-which occurred at least "10,000 to 11,000 years ago..." and not 3000.

And BTW both M. pacificus and M. americanum belong to

"Mastodons are any species of extinct proboscideans in the genus Mammut (family Mammutidae)"
it's not unfeasible that they existed in small numbers until they died out entirely
Re the woolly mammoth

"...disappeared from their mainland range at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 years ago [but] isolated populations survived on St. Paul Island until 5,600 years ago and on Wrangel Island until 4,000 years ago..."

-So who knows? Isolated hippie communes exist in the wilds of CA to this very day.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more