Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Top of The Rock: Giant Animals of America
TOP OF THE ROCK
A lion four feet high at the shoulder, a short faced bear weighting 2,250 pounds and a Hell Pig as big as a rhino, how in the world did the Native Americans who faced them 13,000 years ago survive?
This was the question raised in our minds as we examined the giant skeletons of these prehistoric animals, and others that had existed in the Ozark region at the end of the last ice age. Most of these carnivorous giants went extinct 11,000 years ago.
Johnny Morris, who made his billions starting with the Bass Pro Shop, decided some years ago that he wanted to share his collection of artifacts with the public.
After consultation with the Field Museum in Chicago has built one of the most remarkable displays of Pleistocene Mammals at the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Top of the Rock, seven miles south of Branson, Missouri.
In the entrance area we were introduced to the Woolly Mammoth skeleton the size of a modern elephant, that is, about eight feet high at the shoulder.
Nearby was the skeleton of the American Lion, at four feet at the shoulder and 1000 pounds, was the largest cat of all time. Facing the lion was a short faced bear skeleton who could run 30 miles an hour and when standing was eight feet tall.
His thin legs meant he couldn't make sharp turns when chasing prey and probably used his large size to take kills away from other large predators. His bones showed his diet was purely meat based.
The actual museum was under ground and included 41 exhibition areas that curved around taking us through the Pleistocene age, through the different stages of Native Americans, to the arrival of the whites, and through the Civil War.
The first section we visited below the surface was about the giant animals of the past. One of the fossils was of the giant beaver who at seven feet long was the largest rodent of the ice age. With a very large head that lacked teeth for gnawing on wood--it probably did not make dams. It is suggested they died out because of the changing nature of the plants they ate.
A Bear Dog, the size of bear, attacks a Hell Pig
Fun to view were the dioramas that showed animals rebuilt to scale interacting (attacking) each other. One shows a bear dog attacking a Hell Pig. The bear dogs were dogs that were the size of modern bears who traveled in packs and had bone crushing teeth.
Seeing these animals on the attack, the question again comes up, "How could humans have been competitors?
One of the Giant Short Faced Bears attacks a Native American
This becomes even more of a question at a later diorama with an enormous short-faced bear attacking a Native American who had just killed a small deer. The bear stands over him arms raised, claws out, jaws wide open. The man leans back a small spear in his hand overwhelmed by the attack. But humans survived most of the violent carnivorous animals are long gone.
Why did these animals go extinct. Did the mammoths' go extinct due to over hunting by humans and animals? Did the carnivorous giants die out because humans were better competitors for the animals they both hunted for food. Several scientific reports I checked suggested two other factors.
Mega animals may have had a difficult time adjusting to the heating up of the atmosphere as the ice age ended. In addition a long period of drought around 10,500 years ago may cut down numbers and made animals easier to hunt by humans as they gathered at water holes.
We were left with questions, but were pleased to have been introduced to new animals that been previously unknown to us. We have another story about Top Of The Rock about their marvelous collection of the many ways Native Americans developed to make their way in the world.
Some Terror Birds of the time were 10 feet tall and attacked the small horses who lived in those days
12,000 years ago America's midlands had giant elk and giant cats
Giant Ground Sloths existed in the American midlands 13,000 years ago