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A pair of divers swimming along Florida's Peace River made an unexpected find: a four-foot, 50-pound leg bone from a giant Columbian mammoth that lived 10,000 years ago.

The divers Derek Demeter and Henry Sadler, who were also both amateur paleontologists, went for a scuba trip on the Florida River, located some 55 miles from the city of Sarasota, and found the bone. They believe that the femur belonged to a Columbian mammoth - giant trunked mammals that roamed North America as far as the northern part of the US during the Pleistocene some 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago. These giant mammals were known to reach 13 feet tall and weigh more than 10 tons, as reported by DailyMail.

An Illustration of the Columbian Mammoth
(Photo : Charles R. Knight via Wikimedia Commons)
Columbian mammoth, based on the AMNH specimen (formerly M. jeffersonii).

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Scuba Expedition Turned Into an Archaeological Find

Recalling their story in the local publication Orlando Sentinel, an April 25 scuba expedition turned into a discovery as Sadler came running to his buddy telling him that he had found something "amazing."

"When I saw it, I couldn't believe it. I was in denial," said Demeter, who also works as the planetarium director at the Seminole State College also in Florida. "It was really neat to see that be discovered."

He also posted the discovery on his Facebook page, saying that " It weighs a ton but incredible discovery!" He also noted that during the Pleistocene, the land that is now Florida once "had these giants roam the prehistoric savannah grasslands."

While radiocarbon dating has not been conducted on the Columbian mammoth bone recovered by the divers, Demeter estimates that the sample might be as old as 100,000 years old based on its density. He adds in a separate interview with Fox35 Orlando that the sample was "pretty well preserved" because it was protected as it was buried underneath the sands of the riverbed.

Aside from the leg bone belonging to a Columbian mammoth, the divers also found a part of a now-extinct shark species, as well as a tooth, believed to belong to a saber-toothed tiger in the same expedition. Salder, who also teaches middle school in St. Petersburg, explains that they only recovered the "top third" of it, adding that the tooth was missing "quite a bit."

Florida During the Pleistocene

A virtual presentation of the Pleistocene Epoch by the Florida Museum explains that the ice ages of the period forced drastic climatic changes on the northern continents of the time. However, the land that is now Florida was "buffered" from the worst effects of this climate shift, thanks to the warmer waters of the neighboring Gulf of Mexico. Still, the region experience rapid changes in its environmental conditions, with the museum explaining that the landmass was "more than twice as large as it is today."

Also, albeit in decline, megafauna or large animals roamed the lands of Pleistocene-era Florida. Demeter supports this rich history of wildlife in the area, explaining that the Peace River has proved to be a "treasure trove" for different fossils - remains of once-powerful beasts that thrived in the location, including mammoths, giant sloths, as well as megalodons in its waters.

 

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