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The Tate Geological Museum at Casper College (Wyoming) and Dee the Mammoth educate and thrill visitors from around the world. . click enlarge...

The Tate Geological Museum at Casper College (Wyoming)

In 2006 a heavy machinery operator struck paleontological pay-dirt when he uncovered the pelvis of a huge Columbian mammoth in Central Wyoming. Named for the operator who first discovered the bones, Dee is an 11,600 year old mammoth who lived to the ripe old age of about 65. Dee's skeleton is mostly complete and as such has provided scientists with a vast amount of information about the life of a geriatric mammoth. Like many other old timers, Dee suffered from several ailments.

Dee had severe arthritis in his lower back and his last five vertebrae have odd-looking bony growths on them. The medical term used for these bony growths, or bone spurs, is spondyloarthropathy, which is a type of reactive arthritis. This, in turn, is a result or side effect of osteoarthritis. Also, Dee has a pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVS) bone tumor in his lower back between two of his vertebral spines. The PVS was an effect of aging and probably made movement uncomfortable. Other indicators of old age include his fused radius and ulna on both front legs, and the apparent spondylopathy on the right condylar process at the top of the jaw.

The most notable indicator of Dee's advanced age, however, are his teeth. They are his last set and are about one-third the size that they would have been when they first erupted. The fact that there was not another set of teeth in his mouth confirms that this was his sixth and final set and he used them until they wore out. Dee's two upper teeth were found mixed in with his ribs and vertebrae, and this combined with their poor preservation, indicate that he may have swallowed them. If that is true, then it is safe to say that, without his teeth, Dee did indeed die of starvation.

After his discovery in 2006, the Tate Geological Museum spent 3 field seasons excavating his skeleton. 90% of the recovered bones were found in the first two years; however the mammoth's skull and right tusk were still unaccounted for. It was during the final week of the final field season that Dr. Sundell, one of the two principal investigators, was able to locate the skull and tusk. He determined that the arroyo in which the skeleton was situated had another channel. Dr. Sundell went out with a small group including Dee Zimmerschied, the heavy machines operator who first discovered the bones, to look for the skull. Using Dr. Sundell's knowledge of geology, and Dee's excavating skills; the group hit mammoth pay-dirt, again.

The skeleton was prepared at the Tate Geological museum in the Prep Lab by a cadre of staff and volunteers. Dee's mounted and nearly complete skeleton is the centerpiece for the museum's new Pleistocene exhibit. The exhibit introduces Pleistocene Wyoming, Mammoths, Mastodons and Elephant comparisons and a PSI-Pleisto-Scene Investigation interactive element. The exhibit also covers mammoths in general and introduces visitors to Dee’s life and death.

It was through the cooperation of the land owners, the oil companies, the BLM, Casper College and the Tate Geological Museum that this exhibit was realized. It seems that everyone involved, from start to finish, shared a common goal and a common vision. As such, The Tate Geological Museum at Casper College and Dee the Mammoth educate and thrill visitors from around the world. Want to meet Dee? Come visit us at the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College. We are located at 125 College Dr, Casper, Wyoming 82601. Call us at 307-268-2447 for more information. We are open M-F 9:00am to 5:00pm and Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm. Check out our website at http://www.caspercollege.edu/tate/index.html or follow us on Facebook! Look for Dee the Mammoth or Tate Geological Museum at Casper College.

Mammoth partner feature articles:

Big Bone Lick State Park | Channel Islands NP, Pygmy Mammoth | Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose | Denver Museum of Nature & Science Snowmastodon Project | Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County | Kenosha Public Museums | The Mammoth Site at Hot Springs | Paleontological Research Institution, Museum of the Earth | The Tate Geological Museum at Casper College | Tule Springs Ice Age Park | Waco Mammoth Site

Last updated: March 17, 2012