Aucilla Mammoth skeleton now on exhibit

By Dr. S. David Webb

You really must visit the Florida Museum of Natural History’s new exhibition at Powell Hall, southwestern part of the University of Florida campus. The first thing you will see in the central gallery is one of the largest mammoths in North America. This magnificent skeleton of a mature male Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) from the Aucilla River stands over 14 feet tall. In life it weighed about 10 metric tons. This is also one of the most complete specimens ever collected: 90 percent of the bones are real; even the breastbones (sternebrae) are preserved. This is the only real mammoth skeleton exhibited south of the Smithsonian Institution. (The other three original proboscideans on exhibit are mastodons.) Collagen taken from the thighbone yielded a radiocarbon date of about 16,000 years old. That probably places it too early to have encountered early human hunters.

As noted in last year’s Aucilla River Times, this specimen was collected in 1968 and was featured in the February 1969 issue of the National Geographic Magazine. Last year, after lying on museum shelves for three decades, the bones were shipped to “Prehistoric Animal Structures” (acronym = PAST), a company in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that specializes in mounting dinosaur and proboscidean skeletons. They delivered it and reassembled it in Florida this past November in time for its dedication at PALEOFEST’98. (See “Paleofest’98”).