Jaw of Extinct Lion Found Along Drought-Stricken Mississippi River – Thelocalreport.in


In this aerial view, barges, stranded by low water sit at the Port of Rosedale along the Mississippi River on October 20, 2022 in Rosedale, Mississippi. The lion fossil was found in the Rosedale area in October.

Ongoing drought along the Mississippi River has revealed several previously sunken treasures, a list that now includes a jaw fragment from an ancient lion species that went extinct thousands of years ago.

Wiley Prewitt, a resident of Oxford, Mississippi, was exploring an uncovered sandbar near Rosedale at the end of October. He stumbled across black teeth in the sand.

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“I could tell from the teeth right away that it was a fragment of a carnivore’s jaw but I dared not hope it was from an American lion,” Prewitt said to The Sun Herald. “It certainly looked right but I wouldn’t let myself believe it.”

On October 29, Prewitt went to the Mississippi Fossil and Artifact Symposium & Exhibition to ask experts about his findings, The Sun Herald reports. Event organizers confirmed that this was the jaw of an American lion.

Prewitt’s discovery has excited fossil lovers. There are only three other known fossils from these ice age lions to come from Mississippi, according to The Sun Herald. Remains from other ancient predators are more likely to be found in states out west. The American lion went extinct about 11,000 years ago; Researchers believe these lions weighed between 500 to 800 pounds and lived in North America for about 340,000 years.

“There’s arguments among scientists about it, but I think that it is because of activity impacts—particularly hunting,” Kate Lyons, a paleoecologist at the University of Nebraska, told Earther during a call. Previous research suggestions that humans hunted many large mammals to extinction during the last ice age—which may be why we no longer walk the planet with giant sloth or mammoths.

Lyons explained that these huge cats were larger, heavier ancient relatives of the modern African lion. Finding a fossil like this is rare, Lyons said, because predators aren’t as abundant in landscapes compared to other mammals.

“It’s not unheard of that you would find fragments for each of these extinct mammals, but the apex predators like American lions are gonna be more rare,” she said. “Big cats are just cool. So anytime you find a fossil of a big cat, I’m going to fangirl over it.”

Lyons said that anyone who finds mammal bones or fossils along dried-up parts of the Mississippi River should take the item to a local museum. Museums are often equipped to assess fossils and contact relevant researchers. “If [the fossil] feels delicate, you should be careful that you don’t break it. But typically they’re pretty robust, because what makes it into the fossil record of mammals are the hard parts that are left,” she said.

This year, low water levels around Baton Rouge also revealed a sunken wooden ship that may have been built in the late 1800s, CNN reports. The ship is believed to have sunk in 1915 after it was damaged in a storm.

The drought may be turning up some exciting finds, but it has disrupted shipping across several states. Cruise ships have had to change their schedules, and barges have run aground along the river. Barges have had to carry 20% less cargo to make up for the lower water levels.

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that the country is in for another dry winter. Climate change has intensified dry conditions: Earlier this year, researchers attributed 42% of the country’s drought conditions to human-caused climate change.

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