Dire Straits for an Ice Age Mammoth in Kansas: A wolf-bitten mammoth from the Pleistocene

This project is an investigation of a large mammoth skeleton marked by numerous bite marks. These markings were first noticed during the renovation of the Mammoth and Mastodon Exhibit at the end of 2014. The Vertebrate Paleontology Research Staff found the markings during the conservation of the bones in the exhibit, and afterward they teamed with researchers in the Mammalogy Division to identify the animal responsible for the bite marks.

The first bite marks were found on the end of an ulna (one of the bones of the forearm) near the elbow joint. The bite marks appear as elongate markings with a triangular cross-section, clearly made by something with a sharp point. The irregular shapes of the marks ruled out humans as potential culprits, and the pattern of the marks was found to be consistent in size and arrangement with the bite of a wolf, rather than a large cat (like Smilodon or Miracinonyx) or bear (Ursus or Arctodus). Researchers are continuing to study this skeleton to find other bite patterns, more precisely identify the bite maker(s), and interpret ancient ecosystems and food webs.


  • Joshua Schmerge, David Burnham, Robert Timm