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Michigan's ice age behemoths: selected papers on mastodonts and mammoths from the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters.

INTRODUCTION

For many years the annual meeting of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters has been a golden place to exchange ideas about the Pleistocene flora and fauna of the state. And no wonder, for because of its glacial history, Michigan has been a critical area for Ice Age studies. All of the discussants at this yearly forum doubtlessly would agree that the most awesome and important members of the Pleistocene fauna are the mastodonts and mammoths, huge proboscideans (elephant-like beasts) that were the dominant members of the terrestrial community of the time. Yet both mastodonts and mammoths became extinct about 10,000 years ago, not only in Michigan but all over the world at the time of the great Pleistocene extinction of mammalian species at the end of the epoch.

The past sixty-odd years of proboscidean study in Michigan have been especially important, because during this interval efforts have shifted from the collection, recording, and exhibition of large mastodont and mammoth remains to an attempt to answer many biological questions about them. Why did the become extinct so suddenly? Why were they so abundant in Michigan at a time when the winter climate was savage and the summers short? What were their feeding habits? How did they become preserved as fossils? How did they impact upon the other vertebrate species in the Pleistocene? And what interactions, if any, did they have with human hunter-gatherers that entered Michigan during the latest part of the Pleistocene?

In this issue of the Michigan Academician, eight selected papers dealing with Michigan's Ice Age behemoths, originally published by the Michigan Academy, are republished in chronological order. These papers not only summarize the occurrence of these great beasts in the state, but often contain biological information about the animals. These publications interrelate critically with other proboscidean papers published elsewhere.

Comments will be made before each paper that is presented here and a general discussion follows. The references section contains full citations of other studies mentioned in comments and the discussion that will hopefully lead the interested reader to a further study of the literature.
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Article Details
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Author:Holman, J. Alan
Publication:Michigan Academician
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Sep 22, 2003
Words:351
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