A pair of fishermen from Northern Ireland stumbled upon a historic catch, pulling in with their net an ancient Irish Elk skull with its massive antlers still attached.
The Irish Elk, also known as the Great Elk or the Giant Elk, has been extinct for more than 10,000 years. The species' name is actually a misnomer, as the animals were found beyond Ireland, and were actually deer. One sure thing about them, however, is their massive size.
Ancient Giant Elk Skull Caught In Northern Ireland
Raymond McElroy and his assistant Charlie Coyle were out fishing in an area of Lough Neagh known as the Thorns when something got caught in their fishing net. It looked like black oak, but it turned out to be a very significant find.
When McElroy pulled the object into the boat, he saw that it was a skull with antlers. The fossil, which was acquired from a part of the lake that was less than 20 feet deep and half a mile away from shore, was almost fully intact. It was later determined that the skull, which stretched about 6 feet across, belonged to the Megaloceros giganteus, or the Irish Elk.
Irisk Elk Fossils
The Irish Elk have been extinct for over 10,000 years, and are among the biggest species of deer that have ever lived on Earth. In addition to Ireland, the animals also lived in Europe, northern Africa, and northern Asia.
Over recent years, Lough Neagh has actually proved to be a great spot for finding Irish Elk fossils. In 1987, fisherman Felix Conlon found a set of antlers attached to an Irish Elk skull, and in 2014, another fisherman, Martin Kelly, discovered an Irish Elk lower jawbone that was estimated to be at least 14,000 years old.
McElroy found the skull with antlers in the same area where Kelly made his discovery, which suggests that the bones belonged to the same animal.
The newly discovered Irish Elk fossil is expected to help experts better understand the massive animals, as well as the environment of ancient Europe. This is because the Irish Elk are believed to have been driven to extinction due to environmental change, when the grasslands where the animals used to live were replaced by dense forests several thousands of years ago.
However, while the local authorities are deciding on where the Irish Elk skull with massive antlers will be placed, McElroy has stored the fossil in his garage for safekeeping.