Pr Daniel Fisher
The man who knew the tusks

Professor Daniel C. Fisher completed undergraduate and graduate work in Geological Sciences at Harvard University (PhD, 1975) and was appointed in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Rochester. In 1979, he moved to the University of Michigan’s Department of Geological Sciences and Museum of Paleontology, where he is now the Claude W. Hibbard Collegiate Professor and Curator of Paleontology.

Shortly after arriving in Ann Arbor, Professor Fisher was called to several local sites where remains of mastodons had turned up during excavation of farm ponds. Evidence at some of these sites suggested that humans had been involved in postmortem carcass processing (butchery), and thus began a long-term interest in whether human activity was a significant causal factor in the extinction of mastodons and mammoths.

 

Intrigued by evidence that some of these sites had been used for underwater meat storage, Professor Fisher put himself in the place of a Pleistocene human. He tested the feasibility of underwater meat storage by devising an experiment in which he substituted a draft horse for the mammoth, processed the meat with only prehistoric tools, submerged it in a pond for several months and eventually ate it.

 

An internationally renowned expert on mammoth and mastodon tusks, Professor Fisher’s involvement with Mammuthus began with analysis of the Jarkov mammoth’s tusks in 1999. Using data on the structure and composition of mastodon and mammoth tusks to reconstruct aspects of their behavior, growth history, nutritional status, reproductive biology, and response to environmental conditions, Professor Fisher’s research reminds us how rich and informative the relics of our past can be.

 

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