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13,000-Year-Old Bones of Ancient, Extinct Bison Species Found in Florida

May 13, 2016 12:00 AM EDT

A team of archeologists from the Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has unearthed bones, which is believed to belong to an ancient, extinct bison at the Old Vero Man Site in Vero Beach.

According to the press release of Florida Atlantic University, the bones, which they believe to be 13,000 to 14,000 years old, were found buried 10 feet deep under the ground's surface below a layer that contained material from the Pleistocene period when the last ice age was thought to have occurred.

In order to determine which animal the bones belong, the archeologists analyzed the discovered upper molar and identified that it belongs to Bison antiquus a direct ancestor of the American bison that roamed North America until it became extinct. The researchers used the molar for identification because 100 percent of the bones of grassland-adapted animal disintegrate after death due to their diet.

According to the archeologists, Bison antiques, or most commonly known as ancient bison, was the most common large herbivore in North America for more than 10,000 years. They measure about 8 feet tall, 15 feet long and weighed close to 3,500 pounds.

The archeologists were surprised to find bones of Bison antiques in their excavation site.

"This finding is especially significant because of the meticulous documentation that has been involved, along with the fact that bones like this have never been found on land as part of a calculated archaeological effort. Others like this have all been found underwater, in sinkholes or streams," said James M. Adovasio, Ph.D., principal investigator, in a statement.

The bones were transferred in the Ancient DNA Lab of FAU at Harbor Branch for further research and examination.

In addition to the ancient bison bones, the archeologist also uncovered bones from small mammals and large mammals that could have come from mammoth, mastodon, sloth or bison. They also found pieces of charcoal and head of a fly.

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