The Explorers Club Once Served Mammoth at a Meal. Or Did It?

February 3, 2016

The story of the 1951 annual Explorers Club dinner is famous, at least among explorers, paleontologists and connoisseurs of exotic cuisine. In brief, mammoth was served. 

A club member and journalist reported on the menu shortly afterward in The Christian Science Monitor, and club members have been talking about it ever since. “At my first dinner, when I was a new member, they told me about it,” said Jack Horner, a dinosaur paleontologist at Montana State University and an inspiration for the character of the paleontologist in the original “Jurassic Park” book. “And they were talking about having another.”

Sadly, as with so many great stories, this one was too good to be true, as a group of Yale researchers reported Wednesday in the journal PLOS One. Fortunately, the tale they uncovered, using the most modern research techniques, has some of its own surprises. The story has to begin with the meat itself, originally billed on the menu as Megatherium, an extinct ground sloth, but recalled over the decades as mammoth, perhaps because that was what it was called in the article in The Monitor. What it was finally determined to be will, of course, have to wait until the end of the story. Read more…