Term Paper: Ancient Michigan Basin Area

Pages: 10 (3084 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Geography  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] This theory is particularly true of mammoths and mastodons. There is clear archeological evidence for human hunting to be the only cause of the disappearance of mammoths and mastodons, both elephant-like creatures.

It is equally as important to note that climactic changes also impacted the survival of these animals. Mammoths had teeth ideal for chewing grasses, while mastodons had molars made for chewing vegetation found in forested areas. There are also theories that these animals became extinct as warmer weather near the end of the Ice Age broke up the grazing habitat these massive animals depended on. Another researcher, Richard MacNeish, has studied mammoth extinctions since the mid-1970s. He believes that only the latest Paleoindians, from 13,000 to 8,500 B.P affected mammoth populations. MacNeish notes that many sites in the Americas have human artifacts along with the extinct bones of the animals predating 12,000 B.P. The Clovis artifacts used by Paleoindians have been found only in the New World.

There is probably truth in both of these theories and many others as well. Both the climate and predators combined had an effect of these mammals survival. Certainly, the climate changes pushed them to the limits of their tolerance. From a cold and arid environment to one of increasing warmth and precipitation, the stresses experienced by mammoths and mastodons were great. As the climate changed, so did the amount of food available to them. It is also important to realize that climate changed differently by region, and that mammoths and mastodons may have survived longer in some areas than others. Certainly the modern day elephant represents the adaptations that these creatures made to evade extinction.

The melting glaciers of the Ice Age climate had provided tall and lush greens for the giant mammals to feed from. As the climate became warmer, lakes and rivers began to dry up and so did the vegetation for the giant wooly mammals. As the food ran out, so did the survival rate of most mammals that weighed 100 pounds. Some of these extinct mammals were mammoths horses, camels, and saber-toothed tigers. The stag-moose (Cervalces scotti) is an extinct deer slightly larger than the modern moose. The stag-moose was found in deposits in mid-western America that indicate that it probably preferred swamps, bogs, and other wetlands in environments like the tundra and spruce parklands. This habitat is similar to that preferred by the modern moose. In fact, the stag-moose probably led a very similar lifestyle. Unfortunately the stag-moose became extinct sometime between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago.

During the last great ice age, the advancing ice forced animals in the tundra to go farther south and the increasingly cold conditions altered the vegetation that also adapted to climactic changes. Most of the adaptations that we note taking place in mammals in Michigan was due to the warming, the change in the landscape and severe deforestation in some places.

The sperm whale represents a prehistoric carnivore that still exists today and Michigan boasts one of the largest fossils from a prehistoric sperm whale. Even during prehistoric times, the Great Lakes as we know them now were larger and connected to the Atlantic Ocean. This may be one reason why the sperm whale survived. Today, they are found far from land in very deep waters, which probably had been there environment during the Pleistocene Epoch.

In 1930, Michigan geologist Russel C. Hussey reported on several discoveries of whalebones in Michigan. The presence of sperm whale fossils in Michigan seems especially curious since these whales are normally creatures of the deep ocean. There is speculation that the sperm and finback whales entered the glacial Great Lakes via the Mississippi River. The fossil whales and walrus of Michigan support the theory that the land of the Great Lakes region has emerged from the deep-sea quite recently.,

There were early species of whales in the Late Eocene Epoch that retained small hind legs even though they adapted to life in the water. As global temperatures continued to warm, mammals grew larger. They adapted to a lifestyle similar to hippos, preferring to spend considerable time in the water.

Fifteen thousand years ago, the woolly mammoth and saber-tooth tigers roamed the Earth. They are cousins of animals still present today who have adapted to changes in their environment -- the giant short-faced bear which was 30% larger than today's grizzly bear and the massive dire wolf. Today, cheetahs, horses, llamas and camels still exist and retain some of the features of early species.

The woolly mammoth and the wooly rhinoceros actually evolved from the broad-nosed or Merck rhinoceros and the straight-tusked elephant. The lion of today, related to the extinct sabre-toothed tiger (Smilodon) is heavier and has a long tail to provide balance when it runs. The Smilodon did not chase prey over long distances and had a bobtail. It was also about a foot shorter than today's lions. It also appears that socially, these big cats may have fought over food as lions do today. Based on the bones found, these creatures probably also had the ability to roar to scare off predators. Much of what these saber-tooth cats had has survived the evolutionary process and is present in lions and tigers today.

Another interesting phenomena of the Ice Age is the fact that there is evidence that indicates that cold-tolerant and warm-loving animals lived side-by-side. Reindeer fossils have been found in close proximity to hippopotamus fossils. Eventually, these animals must have moved during the post-flood time. What is truly amazing is that they were able to adapt and cohabitate.

The Hoplophoneus is another type of saber-tooth cat that is representative of the true cat family. These animals had sharp teeth that fit into a groove of the lower jaw. This small cat resembles the bobcat and was about one and half times the size of a house cat. Their body structure closely resembles that of the present day cat family.

The hyaenodons, which are similar to but not related to hyenas possessed jaws and teeth that were capable of crushing bones. The hyenas of today have kept the fanged teeth and bare their teeth when threatened but are not capable of crushing bones like their ancestors.

The wolverine, a fierce predator and the largest member of the weasel family is an omnivore. Physically, it has snowshoe feet that tend to slow it down in the winter but was probably an advantageous feature during the glacial period and remain so in the winter. The wolverine learned to adapt and can still move quickly when chasing prey.

It is important to emphasize the fact that a lot of the extinctions were due to bitter cold winters and permafrost that produced massive swamps in the summer. This rapid type of cooling was most likely responsible for the extinct of the giant mammoths. We also have to take into account that these gigantic and massive glacial floods were cataclysmic events.

Summary

The Wisconsin glacial episode is the last glaciation in the standard ice-age chronology. A period of high volcanism may have triggered glaciation by causing cooler summers for a few year, which in turn resulted in an extensive summer snow cover. The snow cover then reinforced the initial cooling and an ice age started. Soon after glacial maximum the mid-latitude ice sheets would begin to melt rapidly. Those animals that could not adjust to or migrate from the abrupt climactic changes, such as the woolly mammoths, would be come extinct. The end of the ice age would also be stressful on other animals that would eventually disappear from entire countries.

As we have seen in this discussion, many of the mammals adapted and evolved making changes as needed; others perished. When fossils are found, we begin to put together a picture of how these creatures adapted, in everything from a change in bone structure to developing longer snouts or hoofed feet. Investigations confirm that many of the animals of today can be directly traced to prehistoric ancestors. It is noteworthy that in many cases, researchers can closely align the events taking place on earth to the extinction or evolution of many creatures, including man. Just as we evolved so did many of the mammals.

Today, Michigan, which means "big lake" is surrounded by four of the Great Lakes and has the longest shoreline of any inland state, which where formed during that period millions of years ago when the ice age glaciers melted and prehistoric mammals roamed the area.

Information Sources

Michigan Dept. Of Environmental Quality, Geological Survey Division. General Geology of Michigan. 1998. http://www.calvin.edu

Oard, Michael J. "A Post-Flood Model." 1990.

Eschberger, Beverly. "Prehistoric Michigan." 1998-2000 http://www.geobop.com.

Extinct in the Wild. http://www.bagherra.com.

Michigan's Geological Landscape." Dept. Of Natural Resources. http://www.michigan.gov

Bentley, C.R. 1965. The Land Beneath the Ice. Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York.

Imbrie, J and K. 1979. Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery. Enslow Publishers,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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