South Carolina adopts mammoth as state fossil after origin debate

The buried remains of a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus colombi) are seen at a site where archaeologists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) are working in this handout photograph taken on April 4, 2013 and released to Reuters on April 9, 2013. REUTERS/INAH/Handout

By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON S.C. (Reuters) - The Columbian mammoth became the official state fossil of South Carolina on Tuesday, fulfilling a third-grader's dream, after months of delay stemming from efforts by some lawmakers to give God credit for creating the prehistoric animal. Olivia McConnell, 8, of New Zion, watched with her mother, classmates and teachers as Governor Nikki Haley signed the designation into law. Olivia had written to her state legislator to point out that the state had no official fossil and suggested the animal because in 1725 slaves had dug up a tooth from a Columbian woolly mammoth on a South Carolina plantation. The woolly mammoth, a huge, shaggy, tusked mammal related to the elephant that roamed North America, Siberia and northern Europe, went extinct about 4,000 years ago, although the Columbian species died out long before that. The bill passed the state House in March, but legislators tried to add amendments referring to the book of Genesis and God's creation of the earth and the beasts. State residents pleaded for senators to keep religion out of science, and the simple designation bill eventually emerged from the legislature free of amendments. (Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)