Hyde Park Mastodon Research: Taphonomy

Taphonomy basically means studying what happens to animals (or plants) between the time they die and the time they are found as a fossil. This question often allows scientists to discover a little bit about the environment at the time the now-fossilized creature was living (and dying).

The bones of the Hyde Park Mastodon are in relatively pristine shape. What was thought to be a paleo-Indian cutmark has been reinterpreted, since no other signs of human interaction with the skeleton have come to light. Damage on the underside of the animal's mandible suggest that the animal may have been injured during rutting (males fighting during mating season), possibly even leading its death.