Rare mastodon bones unearthed by Michigan road crews. ‘That’s sure not a horse’

Grand Rapids Public Museum/Facebook Screengrab

Road crews working on a Michigan drainage project unearthed something special.

One of the engineers texted a photo of some bones found Friday, Aug. 12, to Kent County Drain Commissioner Ken Yonker, according to WZZM.

“That’s sure not a horse,” Yonker recalled saying. And he was right.

The construction workers had discovered mastodon bones, according to the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

“We were in shock,” York told WWMT. “We were holding a piece of history.”

Mastodons, believed to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago, are one of 70 mammals that disappeared in North America toward the end of the Ice Age, according to the American Museum of Natural History. They are relatives of the elephant and resemble a woolly mammoth.

While Michigan is considered a “fossil hot spot” — with several mastodon skeletons having been found within the state — this recent find is unusual, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s not that often that you find a skeleton this complete, it’s probably about 40%-60% complete just based on initial field assessment and so when we got there and we realized there was a lot more to the animal, we were really excited about it,” museum science curator Cory Redman told the outlet. “One of the things that makes this find really unique besides being local is all the bones appear to come from a single juvenile mastodon.”

The mastodon was likely 10 to 12 years old when it died, according to Michigan Live. As the bones are cleaned and dried over the next year and a half, researchers hope to get an estimate on when the creature died before placing the skeleton on display.

“Very rarely do you find a complete skeleton especially of a large vertebrate like this,” Redman told the outlet. “We didn’t find the skull or any of the tusks, unfortunately, but we found a lot of other really great stuff.”

The bones were found in private property next to the road, but the owner has “tentatively agreed to donate the bones” to the University of Michigan, according to the outlet.

The skeleton is expected to be displayed at Grand Rapids Public Museum.

The drainage project will continue, WZZM reported.

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