BPP 2017: Mammoths, sea monsters, the origin of snakes, and many more!

Are you attenting the Bringing Palaeontology to People meeting? You should! Check out our previous posts on this unique conference organized by Wild Prehistory, the European Centre of Palaeontology (Opole University) and JuraPark Krasiejów (here and here)! The registration is still open.

What have we prepared for you? Here is our official program. And below are some excerpts. Enjoy!

The Yukagir Mammoth

The Yukagir Mammoth consists of a unique, well-preserved partial carcass of a woolly mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius. This specimen was discovered in the autumn of 2002 by Mr. V. Gorokhov and sons near the Maxunuokha River in northern Yakutia, Arctic Siberia, Russia (GPS 71° 52΄ 988” North – 140° 34΄ 873΄΄ East). In September 2002, the head of this mammoth without the trunk, but otherwise almost completely covered with skin, was extracted from the permafrost. In June 2003, a team from CERPOLEX/Mammuthus, headed by Mr. Bernard Buigues, conducted a brief survey of the Yukagir Mammoth site in close cooperation with scientists of the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, Yakutia, and the scientific secretary of the Russian Mammoth Committee, Saint Petersburg, Russia. More remains of the Yukagir Mammoth were discovered. Soon it became evident that even more remains of this specimen are in the permafrost, not far below the surface, apparently in anatomical order and in well-preserved condition.

In the beginning of September 2003, a small team travelled to the site and excavated the left front leg of the Yukagir Mammoth. This leg was in anatomical position and frozen solid, with ice crystals covering some parts. The radius/ulna and the complete foot are covered with soft tissue, skin and hair, and the “toes” are clearly delineated. In addition, parts of the intestines were salvaged.

In June 2004, a team of Russian, Yakutian, Japanese and other scientists visited the site of the Yukagir Mammoth. The objective of this expedition was to clean and to protect the site for the coming summer. A thick layer of frozen snow was removed, exposing some fur and underfur of the Yukagir Mammoth.

The final expedition for extraction of remains of the Yukagir Mammoth took place in the first half of September 2004. Remains of the vertebral column and the rib cage were recovered, as well as remains of the intestine. Samples of sediments and vegetation, above and beneath the mammoth remains were collected to analyze the environment of this mammoth. The Yukagir Mammoth has been added to the inventory of the Mammoth Museum of Yakutsk, Yakutia, Institute of Applied Ecology, Academy of Sciences of Sakha (Yakutia) Republic (Lenina prospekt, 39, 677891 Yakutsk, Russia) and it is currently kept frozen in an ice cave in Yakutsk.

In this talk, the “Crime Scene Investigation” on this Yukagir Mammoth which shed new light on the exterior of the woolly mammoth and the life-sized reconstruction will be presented.

Prehistoric sea monsters and the ‘Maastricht method’

The shallow and warm seas that covered the southern part of the North Sea Basin between 68 and 66 million years ago were inhabited by highly specialised lizards that were adapted perfectly to life in such an environment. At least six species are now known and private collectors in the region are always on the lookout for remains of such mosasaurs. This theme is taken further here by Dr John W.M. Jagt, who will give examples of how the Maastricht Museum of Natural History (‘the professionals’) work closely together with amateur collectors and how both groups communicate their findings to others. The ‘Maastricht method’ has proved successful during recent years – fun, education, awareness and communication: all in one.

Why don’t snakes have legs?

As vertebrate creatures, snakes belong to the group of animals, which we call reptiles. Most species live on land. Yet they have no legs. Since more than two thousand years, people have been intrigued by this phenomenon. It is even an issue in the Bible. By using images of famous paintings, Dr Eric Mulder will talk about this. Furthermore, the scientific explanation for the loss of legs, in combination with body elongation, more than 66 million years ago, will be discussed. It is a fine example of evolution.

Featured image © Dick Mol.
Pictures of the reconstruction of the Yukagir Mammoth © ManimalWorks.
Picture of John W.M. Jagt with ‘Lars’, a mosasaur specimen from the Netherlands © John W.M. Jagt.
Picture of Eric Mulder with a snake [Eric was smiling so we believe he’s still OK] © Eric Mulder.

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