At 3070 meters/10,000 feet? The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute was exploring the deep waters off the coast of central Calfornia in 2019 and they noticed something strange, an apparent elephant tusk. Having secured a tiny fragment, they went back to retrieve the whole thing in July of this year:
The researchers have confirmed that the tusk—about one meter (just over three feet) in length—is from a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). The cold, high-pressure environment of the deep sea uniquely preserved the tusk, giving researchers the opportunity to study it in greater detail. Computed tomography (CT) scans will reveal the full three-dimensional internal structure of the tusk and more information about the animal’s history, such as its age.
“You start to ‘expect the unexpected’ when exploring the deep sea, but I’m still stunned that we came upon the ancient tusk of a mammoth,” said Haddock. “We are grateful to have a multidisciplinary team analyzing this remarkable specimen, including a geochronologist, oceanographers, and paleogenomicists from UCSC; and paleontologists at the University of Michigan. Our work examining this exciting discovery is just beginning and we look forward to sharing more information in the future.”News, “Researchers recover ancient mammoth tusk during deep-sea expedition” at MBARI (November 22, 2021)
The friend who sent us this story has some questions:
How did it get there? Possibly, he thinks, during the Ice Age, it floated out there on an iceberg. Another possibility is: It died in or near the water, bloated up, and then floated until it sank.
But now here’s the kicker: Whatever happened, the find shows that a fully terrestrial mammal can get buried in ocean sediment. So, he asks, what about some of the papers that show apparent transitional terrestrial whale fossils that are buried in deeper sea conditions? How do we know that some of these fossils had anything to do with the ocean?
No doubt the ocean holds more secrets.