A Mammoth Waste of Time

  • By Peter Tyson
  • Posted 07.01.08
  • NOVA scienceNOW

When it comes to figuring out all you can about an extinct mammoth and its world from its remains, there's nothing like a good piece of poop. It may not look like much, but to a paleoecologist it's a priceless gem. In this slide show, have a look at what a single chunk of dung revealed about its maker as well as about the mammoth's diet, habitat, even the climate in which it lived 22,000 years ago.

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A 22,000-year-old ball of dung speaks volumes about its maker's life and times.



(dung, grass, Poa cf. arctica seed, mineral dust, willow stems, leaves, willow twig cross-section, pollen, bud, moss spore)
© Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics/from original publication van Geel, B., Aptroot, A., Baittinger, C., Birks, H.H., Bull, I.D., Cross, H.B., Evershed, R.P., Gravendeel, B., Kompanje, E.J.O., Kuperus, P., Mol, D., Nierop, K.G.J., Pals, J.P., Tikhonov, A.N., van Reenen, G. and van Tienderen, P.H., 2008. The ecological implications of a Yakutian mammoth's last meal. Quaternary Research 69: 361-376, University of Amsterdam;
(Yukagir mammoth, Yukagir landscape, Yukagir's extraction)
© Francis Latreille/Corbis

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