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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index M > Category: Mammoth

Mammoth Quotes (9 quotes)

Faced with a new mutation in an organism, or a fundamental change in its living conditions, the biologist is frequently in no position whatever to predict its future prospects. He has to wait and see. For instance, the hairy mammoth seems to have been an admirable animal, intelligent and well-accoutered. Now that it is extinct, we try to understand why it failed. I doubt that any biologist thinks he could have predicted that failure. Fitness and survival are by nature estimates of past performance.
In Scientific American (Sep 1958). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 years ago', Scientific American (Sep 2008), 299, No. 3, 14.
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Is not Cuvier the great poet of our era? Byron has given admirable expression to certain moral conflicts, but our immortal naturalist has reconstructed past worlds from a few bleached bones; has rebuilt cities, like Cadmus, with monsters’ teeth; has animated forests with all the secrets of zoology gleaned from a piece of coal; has discovered a giant population from the footprints of a mammoth.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated by Ellen Marriage in The Wild Ass’s Skin (1906), 21-22.
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Is not Cuvier the greatest poet of our age? Of course Lord Byron has set down in fine words certain of our souls’ longings; but our immortal naturalist has reconstructed whole worlds out of bleached bones. Like Cadmus, he has rebuilt great cities from teeth, repopulated thousands of forests with all the mysteries of zoology from a few pieces of coal, discovered races of giants in the foot of a mammoth.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
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It is well known, that on the Ohio, and in many parts of America further north, tusks, grinders, and skeletons of unparalleled magnitude are found in great numbers, some lying on the surface of the earth, and some a little below it ... But to whatever animal we ascribe these remains, it is certain that such a one has existed in America, and that it has been the largest of all terrestrial beings.
Notes on the State of Virginia (1782), 71, 77.
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The earth was covered by a huge ice sheet which buried the Siberian mammoths, and reached just as far south as did the phenomenon of erratic boulders. This ice sheet filled all the irregularities of the surface of Europe before the uplift of the Alps, the Baltic Sea, all the lakes of Northern Germany and Switzerland. It extended beyond the shorelines of the Mediterranean and of the Atlantic Ocean, and even covered completely North America and Asiatic Russia. When the Alps were uplifted, the ice sheet was pushed upwards like the other rocks, and the debris, broken loose from all the cracks generated by the uplift, fell over its surface and, without becoming rounded (since they underwent no friction), moved down the slope of the ice sheet.
From Études sur Les Glaciers (1840), as translated by Albert V. Carozzi in Studies on Glaciers: Preceded by the Discourse of Neuchâtel (1967), 166.
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The epoch of intense cold which preceded the present creation has been only a temporary oscillation of the earth’s temperature, more important than the century-long phases of cooling undergone by the Alpine valleys. It was associated with the disappearance of the animals of the diluvial epoch of the geologists, as still demonstrated by the Siberian mammoths; it preceded the uplifting of the Alps and the appearance of the present-day living organisms, as demonstrated by the moraines and the existence of fishes in our lakes. Consequently, there is complete separation between the present creation and the preceding ones, and if living species are sometimes almost identical to those buried inside the earth, we nevertheless cannot assume that the former are direct descendants of the latter or, in other words, that they represent identical species.
From Discours de Neuchâtel (1837), as translated by Albert V. Carozzi in Studies on Glaciers: Preceded by the Discourse of Neuchâtel (1967), lviii.
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The Humorless Person: I have a friend who has about as much sense of humor as the wooden Indian of commerce. Some time ago he made a trip through the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky. … He did his sight-seeing very thoroughly. He didn’t miss a single ramification in that great crack in the face of Mother Nature. … I asked him what he thought of the Mammoth Cave. “Well,” said he, “taking it as a hole, it is all right.”
In A Sample Case of Humor (1919), 15.
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What happened to those Ice Age beasts? What caused the mammoth and mastodon and wooly rhinoceros to pay the ultimate Darwinian penalty, while bison and musk ox survived? Why didn't the fauna of Africa suffer the kinds of losses evident in other regions of the world? And if something like climatic change caused the extinction of North America's Pleistocene horse, how have feral horses managed to reestablish themselves on the western range?
(1986)
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[An artist] will sooner and with more certainty, establish the character of skeletons, than the most learned anatomist, whose eye has not been accustomed to seize on every peculiarity.
Asserting his (incorrect) belief that the fossil teeth of the mastodon revealed it was a carnivorous animal.]
In An Historical Disquisition on the Mammoth, or, Great American Incognitum, an Extinct, Immense, Carnivorous Animal, whose Fossil Remains Have Been Found in North America (1903), 38-39, which was published for his London exhibit of a mastodon skeleton. As cited in Michele L. Aldrich article on Peale, in Charles Coulston Gillespie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1978), Vol. 15-16, 472.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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