Mastodons in Manhattan? Or, Pachyderms of the Pleistocene

South Street Seaport...
Creative Commons License photo credit: 708718

It’s hard to imagine it now, but the world’s largest cities – the places where humanity’s impact on the Earth can be seen most vividly – were once overrun with prehistoric wildlife so large and fascinatingly diverse as to boggle the mind. Depending on where you live, your own backyard may have been home to mastodons, giant beavers, a herd of fearsome Postosuchus, or Ice Age bears.

A new Discovery Channel series profiles six cities across the United States, each with their own unique story to tell about the richness of prehistoric life. With stories ranging from the Triassic to the Pleistocene, the variety of life that came before us is truly amazing.

Mastodon Skeleton, from the side
Creative Commons License photo credit: The_Gut

Check out this video to see the HMNS visiting curator of paleontology, Dr. Robert Bakker, discuss the “hairy monsters” that once roamed the boggy forests that would be transformed – by both natural and human forces – into modern-day Manhattan. Watching the cityscape melt away into verdant wetlands of the Pleistocene is pretty amazing, as is seeing the ancient plant life still growing through modern sidewalks.

You can see more when “Prehistoric New York” airs locally, this Sunday, June 28, at 8 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.