Wednesday was National Fossil Day, and the Illinois State Museum, part of the Capitol Complex in Springfield, celebrated by having geologist Chris Widga display sets of lower jaws – mandibles – from mastodons which likely roamed what is now Missouri. “When they went extinct, it was a time period when we had the first humans into North America. It was a time period when you had a lot of climate change, which kind of sounds familiar,” Widga says.
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“If we can start figuring out the nuts and bolts of the ecosystem, how the ecosystem worked at that time, and how climate was changing it, and how humans were changing it, then we have a better feeling for why these animals went extinct, and then, perhaps, how ecosystems and how our world’s going to change in the next hundred years.” Widga says ongoing advances in education and technology require such artifacts be re-examined approximately every 10 years.