Ivory Fossils

If you get a chance to see an elephant at the zoo or circus that is carrying a fully developed set of tusks, it is an amazing sight to see. It seems like these massive beasts should be clumsy in their huge bodies. But as you watch, that elephant can use those tusks along with that long trunk to perform an amazing amount of tasks that we would require hands to do. Just watching an animal that towers over you in size move and eat or drink can inspire awe, which is the fun of going to see the elephants for young and old.

When you study the time of the dinosaurs, however, you will find that the ancestor of the modern elephant makes our current version of the animal look tiny by comparison. The Wooly Mammoth is one of the most exotic dinosaurs that draws the most attention when we read about the dinosaurs. Next to the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the flying Pterodactyl, the Wooly Mammoth is fascinating because it resembles the modern elephant that we are “used to” but in many ways, it is as much a wild dinosaur as any of them.

The sheer size that science tells us these mammoths reached almost staggers the imagination. If you study the Wooly Mammoth in the encyclopedia or at the natural history museum, you will find pictures that show our modern elephant standing next to what a Wooly Mammoth would have looked like. In those created pictures, the elephant we know from the circus looks like a small dog next to its historic ancestor. It is natural to be skeptical that this kind of size scale could be possible. But paleontologists have the evidence of that massive size that the Wooly Mammoth reached in the form of those mighty ivory tusks that have survived down to our day in the form of fossils.

Because the tusks of these huge mastodons were solid ivory, they have survived in fossilized form and they are often discovered in arctic locations. There have been situations where a lone flyer spotted Wooly Mammoth tusks sticking up out of the ice as their airplane flew over the frozen tundra. They have also suddenly become unearthed during mining operations in remote locations.

The great thing about these discoveries is they give us a chance to recover some of these precious fossils for display in our museums. If you ever walked into a room where a Wooly Mammoth tusk was on display, the urge to gasp is impossible to ignore. That tusk will fill a room the size of a ballroom. Scientists have been able to calculate how massive these huge dinosaurs were just from the tusks by figuring out how big an elephant would have to be to carry two of these tusks and use them.

You can only imagine how those tusks struck terror into the hearts of other animals of the time when one of those huge elephants charged. Those tusks have been passed to us to become part of the rich educational heritage that archeology has given us in the form of fossils of dinosaurs who once ruled the earth.