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Ponies and the Pleistocene--Big Kitties

The Waco Mammoth Site has two levels of mammoths. Between these two levels, another event gave us a very different collection of fossils. So far, this intermediate level has produced five ribs from an herbivore, not yet identified, and one very small, very special tooth.

The tooth is in storage today, but I recently painted a replica of it, shown top right, which we put on display this week. It's from a baby saber-tooth cat! This cub was less than a year old, and its fang was six centimeters long, root to tip. We don't know yet which type of saber-tooth it was.

The most famous, of course, is Smilodon fatalis, and some of these ambush predators may have lived in Central Texas. A replica of one of this beast's fangs is shown on the left. The other likely candidate is Homotherium serum, the scimitar cat. This animal had shorter fangs (specimens from The University of Texas pictured lower right) but longer legs, using pursuit instead of ambush.

Until more of this cub is found, we won't know which one we have. Either way, I bet it was an adorable kitty.

There will be no KT next week, as I will be out of town, helping a friend with research. See you the week after!

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And we're back! I had a long, unintended absence. Between event planning, presentations at conferences, helping friends and sharing my computer with someone who arguably needs it more than I do, I got really behind. How embarrassing! Guilt (and a few stern glares) should keep me from doing it again.

This is Sweet Breeze, by the way. We'll be seeing a lot of her.

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Ponies and the Pleistocene: Coordinating

I've told you all lots of awesome things about fossils, megafauna, and mammoth behavior. Some people are curious about how I fit into all this. What do I do?

I am the education coordinator at the Waco Mammoth Site. This means I'm responsible for educational programs, exhibits, and outreach. Programs are the main focus of my job. I design activities like small excavation boxes to teach kids the differences between geology, archaeology, and paleontology. Exhibits are important, too. They allow guests to learn on their own. Outreach includes visits to schools, presenting at conferences, and online discussion, such as Ponies and the Pleistocene.

And then there are events. This is Fossil Week! We've spent the last two months planning our annual Fall Fossil Festival, which will be October 19, and is why you're not reading a new comic. Ha!

If you have a natural history site or museum in your area, they probably are celebrating National Fossil Day on October 19 as well. Go visit them! They each have their own education coordinator, and they'd love for you to enjoy their work.

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Holy late updates, Batman!

Most of my waking hours have been consumed by work lately, planning our annual festival that ties in with National Fossil Day. I also have to attend a conference, where I will demonstrate activities to local school teachers. My illness was inconvenient.
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Thing I will miss the most about the library: Yesterdaisy. Her winding tale is based on my father-in-law's endless stories about Elvis, most of which get lost before the point is reached.

Thing I will miss the least about the library: those scrolls. I set them up, I knock them off, and I have to start all over, because the background needs continuity from one panel to the next. In the end, they usually get cropped out. Stupid scrolls.

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Ponies and the Pleistocene--Growing


Minty is looking over Mammoth W, a young female at the Waco Mammoth Site. Mammoth W (some of us call her Wanda) is special for many reasons.

W lies in the uppermost level, unlike the other females buried in the lowest level, pictured in the lower right. She was not part of the nursery herd that perished 65,000 years ago. Instead, she was buried with Mammoth Q, our male, roughly 50,000 years ago. This is one of many unsolved mysteries at the site. Were they a mating pair? Or had they just met? Bones from at least two mammoths lie between them, one of them from a juvenile. Are we seeing the outer edges of yet another nursery herd, or is this a small group who wandered off on their own?

W also is our most-studied mammoth. Her tusk was removed to examine the growth rings inside. Thickness of the rings indicate the health of the animal; isotopes contained within them tell us where they migrated.

But most importantly, W was the last mammoth excavated at the site, discovered in 2000. Excavation has been on hold since then, waiting for the site to get the facilities it needs for full research and preservation of the fossils. Until then, other fossils remain safely buried, waiting for us.

You can help. A petition to add the Waco Mammoth Site to the United States National Park Service is being presented to the White House. If added, development of the site will speed up, and research can start again. Please consider signing, and be sure to tell others!