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    Discovery of Kikinda Mammoth...

 

At the beginning of September 1996, in the clay mines of factory "Toza Markovic" AD in Kikinda, during regular exploitation of clay for production, skeleton parts of Pleistocene proboscides were discovered. Engineer of geology, Mileta Novovic, immediately informed Natural History Museum about this discovery. The museum sent geologic sector team, Zoran Markovic, paleontologist, and Milos Milivojevic, geologic preparatory, to the site and since that moment voluminous excavations of fossil material started.

The skeleton was discovered at the depth of 21 meters, in the so called "blue clay" which is the lowest level of exploitation of the clay mine. Dynamics of excavation were dictated by the weather conditions and the speed of deposit exploitation. When the hip bone, which was discovered first, and vertebras were excavated, special care had to be paid because of bone crazes caused by dredger grip. Preventive protection had to be applied on the spot which then slowed the excavation. After discovery of these bones, the new followed. Next to be discovered was the skull with excellently preserved upper molars, and the first to show were the tips of tusks. The arrangement of the tusks indicated to the upright position which significantly facilitated further work. Parallel to uncovering, the tusks were bandaged by the wooden clamps and wrapped by tensile foil to prevent their breaking and sudden drying out.

Lower jaw was found in the natural position with respect to the skull, based on which it was possible to conclude that the animal died in situ. Interesting was the occurrence of muddy liquid of characteristic smell, draining from the foramen magnum in the skull originating from the brain envelope and hoan. Looks and smell of the liquid indicated that due to sudden submerge of the animal into the sludge, and also due to lack of the air, the organic matter was not completely substituted by the sediment. Spinal column with ribs stretched North West from the skull, where in the end the pelvis was discovered with joined sacral whorls, standing as another proof of find in situ. Intermingled bones of extremities lay directed towards the next level. Tiny bones were not completely discovered; either because they were driven away by the water or the predators. The most mysterious occurrence was lack of both shoulder blade bones. Hypothesis that they have been driven by the water or predators is hardly acceptable (because weight of individual bone with flesh is over 200 kg). More realistic assumption is that it was done by a man of that time who used such and similar parts of skeleton for covering shelters and for making tools (Lister et Bahn 1995).

Due to impossibility to excavate the skull and the tusks completely in one, it was necessary to amputate the tusks in the level of alveoli. Parts separated in this way were placed on the specially designed wooden sledges and by means of bulldozer they were driven from the clay mines. They were then taken to the conservation place in the bulldozer hand. The same procedure was used for the pelvis and bulky bones of extremities, while the others were taken out manually.


All that you should know about mammoths

Mammoths belong to the family of proboscides which evolved about 55 million years ago. The name comes from the Greek word proboskis. Evolution of the proboscides started with Moeritheriums and Phimis evolving into even 160 different species up to now. Although they are very similar to contemporary elephants, mammoths are not their direct ancestors, but they come from a separate branch of the same family tree. Mammoths and elephants lived at the same time for about four million years while their evolution ran separately. First mammoths appeared in Africa and they later migrated to Europe, Siberia and North America.

In the lower Pleistocene, about 1.8 million years ago, dominant species was M. Meridionalis. This species migrated to North America, across Bering Strait. During the mid Pleistocene, a new American species of mammoth evolved, so called Imperial mammoth, M. Imperator (although the question is whether the name is justified and gender name legitimate). In the upper Pleistocene M. Columbi appeared (known also as M. Jeffersoni).

Mammuthus Meridinnalis lived in Europe at the beginning of Pleistocene and represents ancestral form from which two different species of mammoth evolved: Mammuthus Trogontherii (Steppe Mammoth) and Mammuthus Columbi.

The new species of mammoth, Steppe mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) lived in Euro-Asia during the upper Pleistocene in the period from 700 000 to about 500 000 years ago. Later, during Pleistocene, the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus Primigenius) evolved as the result of adapting to the new, colder climatic conditions.

Nobody is completely sure why the mammoths disappeared. There are various assumptions where climatic changes are one of them. At the end of Ice Age the ice was melting and the climate became much warmer. Those climatic changes greatly influenced the survival of woolly mammoth. Man was another factor that contributed to extermination of mammoths as he hunted them for food and furs.

Mammoths are not the only representatives of Pleistocene proboscides. During Pleistocene, so called old elephant, Paleoloxodon Antiquus, with flat tusks, lived in Europe and Asia. It reached the size of steppe elephant, but unlike it, lived in the warmer, forest regions. Paleoloxodon Antiquus is considered to be a direct ancestor of nowadays Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). They disappeared about 30 000 years ago.


Story about mammoths in the territory of Serbia

At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the development of natural sciences, our country begins paying much more attention to paleontology findings. This contributed the practice that fossil remains found during construction and other works are collected and kept under more or less professional supervision. Among the discovered remains, most frequent are the remains of Pleistocene proboscides that are kept in numerous collections throughout the country.

One of the rather rich collections is one of the Natural History Museum of Belgrade. Most of the material was found during sand and gravel excavation near big Pannonian rivers (the Sava, Danube, Tisa, Drava, Tamis) or at the confluence of tributaries to the Sava and Danube (Kolubara, Velika Morava).

Museum collection consists of numerous remains of both mammoth species found in our territory, and they are Mammuthus trogontherii and Mammuthus primigenius.


Paleo-ecology

At the beginning of quarter, in Pleistocene, completely new, much harsher living conditions prevailed, with significant temperature drop. Atmospheric precipitation became more frequent and diversified, glaciers grew and slide down the hills, far below the snow border.

Genuine ice ages, so called glacial periods, with low temperatures and ample atmospheric precipitation, were replaced by interglacial periods when the climate in Europe was sometimes warmer than nowadays.

During glacial periods there were two seasons: fresh summers and long very cold winters. Especially significant is that the summers during the ice period were far colder than today. The highest summer temperature was hardly over 10 - 150C.

Climatic variations and changes of physical – geographic conditions influenced flora and fauna during Pleistocene. These changes were extremely prominent in the north latitudes, including Europe.

In the Balkan Peninsula, ice cover spread over the Alps and Dinara mountains, from Triglav to Metohia, across Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro. In the East, ice covered all mountains of east Serbia and Bulgaria. This spacious snow cover circled Pannonian Plane, Slavonia and part of North Serbia on all sides. Spaces outside the ice cover were of enormous importance for plants and animals living at that time. In these grassy lands, along the basins and river valleys, certain number of species found asylum, and they lived in our lands before the ice period. The easiest to adapt were the species adapted to lower temperatures before the ice period. With the onrush of glaciers, plants species gradually retreated and finally stopped along the river valleys and basins where the glaciers could not reach. After glacial period, alongside with retreat of snow and ice, but also with rise of temperature, species of plants once more occupied the northern areas. Territories free of ice, along the rivers and basins, were the major pathways for plants and animals to retreat towards Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Asia Minor.

In the most part of Balkan Peninsula, flora was mostly presented by various types of tundra. The exceptions are parts of Pannonian plane characteristic for its steppe grasses. On the southern borders of Pannonian plane and along the river valleys there was so called forest tundra with typical plant species as "boreal rose", dwarfish or "polar willow" and birch.

During Neogene (23 million years ago), until the beginning of Pleistocene (1.8 million years ago) Europe was inhabited by animal species adapted to life in warm savannah climate, as mastodons, antelopes, gazelles, deer, rhinoceros, horses, giraffes, etc. Some species of tertiary mammals lived as long as the beginning of quarter, proboscides Anancus arvernensis and Zygolophodon borsoni in Europe and Hipparion in East Asia. At the beginning of ice age extreme warm forms left Europe or temporarily settled in the south. Later, during Pleistocene, in the periods of interglaciation, they moved back towards central and north Europe.

Mammals of warm and moderate climate include a great number of proboscides. During Pleistocene, mastodone (Mammuth americanum) remained in North America, while Palaeoloxodon antiquus stayed in Europe and Asia (forest elephant with flat tusks) which had lived until the last interglacial, as well as Mammuthus trogontherii (Steppe elephant) which entered into the last glacial.

Among the best known forms of cold regions which adapted to harsh climate in Europe and Asia is the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), the remains of which are found in the vast regions of Europe down to Mediterranean Sea.