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The mammoth's skull and tusks. The mammoth's skull and tusks.

Mammoth might have been trapped by mud

Animal's bones are being retrieved in Tultepec, State of México

Mexican paleontologists are in the final stages of unearthing the skeleton of a mammoth discovered in the State of México town of Tultepec last year.

The five-tonne beast roamed the Mexico City suburb some 12,000 to 14,000 years ago when the region had a shallow lake system dominated by the Xaltocan and Zumpango lakes during the late Pleistocene period.

The position of the animal’s remains, whose age has been estimated at 20 to 25 years, suggests it became trapped in the mud of one of those shallow bodies of water due to its huge mass and heavy build. Its corpse was then cut up by humans and other predators.

Those are the conclusions reached by the team of researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), who have been digging up the mammoth’s remains since April.

The skeleton was discovered by accident during routine drainage work in San Antonio Xahuento, located in the municipality of Tultepec, last December.

The bones are being transported to the town’s Casa de la Cultura for a preliminary preservation treatment before being temporarily stored.

In a statement INAH reported that the researchers had discovered ribs and other large bones, including the mandible, humerus and femur bones, and a dozen vertebrae.

While the process of excavating the animal has been painstakingly slow, the team has successfully removed the one-meter-wide skull, the three-meter-long tusks and the pelvis, which they said had been perfectly preserved in more than two meters of soil in which the skeleton was buried.

This is the first chance INAH specialists have had to study a specimen of what has been identified as the Columbian Mammoth, or Mammuthus Columbi.

According to the institute, due to the characteristics of the terrain at the time other mammoths could have suffered the same bad luck but no others have been reported to authorities.

Experts believe that the mammoth grew to five meters tall and weighed up to 10 tonnes, and lived across the United States and Central America. Remains of the mammoths have been uncovered across Mexico, Texas and as far west as the La Brea Tar Pits in California.

Source: am León (sp),  The Telegraph (en), La Vanguardia (sp)

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