LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A mammoth discovered several years ago 30 miles northwest of Pahrump provides the first-known proof of Ice Age animals in the Amargosa Valley area.
Researchers at UNLV had been unable to use radiocarbon dating on the mammoth’s bones, but they analyzed a millimeter-sized shell from a rare species of snail in nearby sediment and found that the bones are 21,000 years old.
That puts them in a time interval called the Last Glacial Maximum within the Pleistocene Ice Age. At that time, temperatures on Earth were the coldest they had been in the previous 100,000 years, according to UNLV.
“This mammoth is the first record of Ice Age animals in Amargosa Valley, which is a big deal,” said UNLV geology professor emeritus Steve Rowland. “Ash Meadows, in southern Amargosa Valley, is the largest wetland in the Mojave Desert, so there must have been a diverse community of animals there in the Ice Age, as there was here in Las Vegas Valley.”
A paper co-authored by UNLV graduate student Lauren E. Parry announcing the find was published in the 2022 Desert Symposium Field Guide and Proceedings.
“This project allows us, for the first time, to connect the ecology of the spring-supported ecosystem of Ice-Age Amargosa Valley with the Ice-Age ecosystem recorded in the Tule Springs Fossil Beds here in Las Vegas Valley,” Rowland said.
The bones will be featured in a future exhibit at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.