Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wait Just a Minute!

A JG reader takes Frank Gray to task for his column(s) on Mastadon Brain Drain:
In two recent Frank Gray columns it was stated that a “Buesching Mastodon” skeleton, found about 10 miles northwest of Fort Wayne, was transported to the University of Michigan and thus “like all the other mastodons found in this area in the past, has ended up somewhere else.”

This statement is incorrect. Parts of two mastodon skeletons from northeastern Indiana have been on display publicly in Fort Wayne – one at IPFW and one at Science Central – for about 25 years.

In 1968 a mastodon skeleton was discovered on the Orcie Routsong farm, about two miles south of Angola. Dirt containing the bones had been piled around a small marshy pond by excavating machinery being used to expand the pond. The bones were not noticed by the excavator, but after a heavy rain a neighbor boy noticed bones protruding from the dirt.

The skeleton was later excavated, under my direction, by staff and students of the newly established Geology (now Geosciences) Department of IPFW. Most of the vertebrae and rib bones were recovered, along with some leg and toe bones. The skull and related bones were later discovered in nearby undisturbed ground. The upper jaw teeth and both tusks of the mastodon were found “in place” in the skull and were well preserved.

A few weeks later, a search for more bones was undertaken by expansion of the pond with excavating machinery, paid for by the IPFW student body. The excavator discovered the partly decomposed skull of a baby mastodon. It appears the mother mastodon and her baby both had been trapped in the soft pond sediment, about 10,000 years ago.

These mastodons have been on display in Fort Wayne since about 1980. The mother Routsong Mastodon is the one that gives the name “Mastodons” to IPFW athletic teams. Her skeleton is on display in a glass case on the ground floor of Kettler Hall at IPFW and has been observed by thousands of students and visitors to the university. The baby mastodon skull is on loan to Science Central, where it also has been viewed and touched by thousands of children and adults.

DR. JACK A. SUNDERMAN
Fort Wayne



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