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Zed's DeadColumbian mammoth

Zed is the first near-complete, semi-articulated skeleton of a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) from Rancho La Brea. He is one of the biggest fossil finds from Project 23 and is of particular interest because he allows paleontologists at Rancho La Brea at to examine body proportions of this species for the first time. His tusks are the most complete ever found at this site.

Also found were the seldom recovered bones of the hyoid apparatus. This is composed of five bones found deep in the throat – although all five have been recovered for Zed just three are shown here; the basihyoid and the paired thyrohyoids. Functions associated with this apparatus in living elephants include sound production, feeding and water storage used to spray themselves when it is hot.

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Other interesting information about ZED

Paleontologists in the Fishbowl Lab are opening the plaster jackets that encase Zed's bones and are preparing them in view of the public. Plaster jackets are an unusual sight at Rancho La Brea – usually the fossils arrive in the lab with most of their matrix (dirt) already removed. Zed gives lab staff and volunteers an exciting opportunity to excavate. Most of the matrix surrounding Zed's bones can be removed with dental picks and brushes; however, some bones contain a harder matrix and they require the use of small pneumatic tools like zip scribes.

Of the thousands of microfossils recovered from Zed's matrix, freshwater molluscs are the most common but also recovered were bones from a frog, fish, quail, rabbit, dwarf pronghorn and gopher. This taphonomic evidence suggests a rapid burial, inaccessible to scavengers along a large stream channel.