Mammoth, Tusks Found by Builders

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Construction crews in a town near Los Angeles have uncovered the fossilized skeleton of a mammoth, with tusks, believed to between 400,000 and 1.4 million years old, a paleontologist said on Friday.

The mammoth, up to 75 percent complete, may be a member of the first species of the elephant-like animals that reached North America.

Paleo Environmental Associates of Altadena, California, was called in last week to dig out the skeleton in Moorpark, 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and expects to complete the task on Friday, Bruce Lander, a partner in the firm, told Reuters.

He said about six paleontologists have been working daily since small bone fragments were discovered last week during grading for a residential development.

"We have found about three quarters of the animal, which is very unusual. The tusks are between 8 and 9 feet long," Lander said.

He said the mammoth was believed to be an ancestor of the Columbian mammoths discovered at La Brea Tar Pits, which are believed to be about 30,000 years old.

Experts believe it may be of the meridionalis species, which grew to 14 feet tall and weighed up to 10 tons and were the first mammoths to reach North America about 1.4 million years ago.

Skeletal pieces will be placed in plaster for protection and then transported to a laboratory, where they will be cleaned and hardened. Eventually, the skeleton probably will be transferred to a museum for display, Lander said.

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