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Scientists use manufacturing methods to reconstruct mastodon

Fisher's contributions to understanding how mastodons lived, died and became extinct some 10,000 years ago. Using evidence from tusks, bones, excavation sites and comparisons with other Ice Age animals, Fisher has made some surprising discoveries. While excavating an 11,000-year-old mastodon in southern Michigan in the late 1980s, he found the first evidence that Ice Age hunters in North America butchered mastodons and preserved the meat by storing it underwater. Other examples of butchered mastodons have since been found in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and New York.

More recently, Fisher's studies of bone damage on fossil remains of mature mastodon males—aided by 3-D computer graphics—showed that some died of wounds inflicted by the tusks of other males during combat. The Buesching mastodon, in fact, appears to have been killed in a fight with another male mastodon and then butchered by humans.

Fisher and a team of assistants also discovered a set of 30 mastodon footprints, believed to be the longest and most complete mastodon trackway ever found, near Saline, Mich., in 1992. A 40-foot cast of the trackway is on display at the museum.

"Dan Fisher is an internationally renowned scientist, but his work is very accessible; it's not something esoteric that you need a Ph.D. to understand," said museum director Amy Harris. "The expanded exhibit offers us an opportunity to feature his research in interesting and engaging ways."

In addition to being an impressive addition to the museum's exhibit space, the Buesching mastodon is important for what it can contribute to scientific understanding, Fisher said. Whereas most mastodon specimens are only about 20 percent complete, 70 to 80 percent of the Buesching mastodon's skeleton was found.

"Having even a few specimens as complete as this one removes a lot of the guesswork that would otherwise be involved in studying a larger number of more incomplete specimens," said Fisher, who plans to con
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Source:University of Michigan

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