Men working underground on Cape Coral's utility extension project in southwest Florida unearthed a fossil that could belong to either a mammoth or a mastodon.
Experts from the Florida Museum of Natural History said the fossil has no distinguishable characteristics that will make it easier to determine whether it belonged to a mammoth or a mastodon. Both of these prehistoric animals were elephant-like and wandered the area about 2 million years ago until about 10,000 years ago.
The fossil measured 1 foot long and formed part of the animal's upper arm bone. Experts from the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy believed the animal that owned the bone predates human life in Florida.
The experts were one in saying that remnants of this kind are usually part of larger fossil remains that are found not very far from where the first piece was located. They believed that bigger fossil bed is also just within the vicinity.
A Mammoth Or A Mastodon
Richard Hulbert, the collections manager and coordinator for the vertebrate paleontology program at the Florida Museum of Natural History, explained that both mammoth and mastodon species roamed Earth during the Pleistocene era. This made it harder for them to clearly identify the species from which the fossils came from.
Field assessment led by Ryan Franklin, assistant director of the Archeological and Historical Conservancy, said the fossil was part of the bone in the arm that extends from the shoulder to the elbow. The bone may have connected the humerus to the elbow.
The fossil was estimated to be around 2.6 million years old and was found by the construction workers during excavations 17 feet into the ground.
"The bone likely came from a horizon of gray clayey sand below several more superficial horizons of fine poorly drained sands and clays," reads the assessment from Franklin and his team.
Kevin Higginson, project manager for the construction work, said excavations were done at the west of Chiquita Boulevard and the north of Pine Island Road. He said the discovery was an unusual find for his crew.
Hulbert and Franklin, however, both said ancient fossils are very common in the Caloosahatchee River area.
The Caloosahatchee River
Franklin and his team believed the 1-foot-long fossil is not the only prehistoric bone in the area. Their assessment explained that there are two recorded fossil sites in Lee County, but most of the archeological findings are being under-reported since most fossil beds are only found during deeper excavations.
Hulbert was also of the same opinion, saying fossils are common along the West Coast from the Tampa area into Lee County and especially near the Peace River. He added that fossils were usually found by private individuals.
In fact, scuba divers have, in the past, scraped fossils off the floor of the Gulf, according to Hulbert. He explained that the sea level was lower during the Ice Age. Many large ancient animals died in lands that are now underwater.
Mark Renz, a writer who conducted interviews for his book Fossiling in Florida, said Florida had interchanged from being underwater to being above sea level 24 times in the last 2 million years. The history of the place, he said, increases the chance of fossils turning up on the lands.