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Mastodon bones discovered by Michigan road crews

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Road crews in Kent County discovered prehistoric bones while digging along a western Michigan road earlier this week.

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The crews were scheduled to replace a culvert along the county line to prevent water backup, but they halted excavation Thursday when they found a 3-foot-long femur, WOOD-TV reported.

According to MLive.com, the backhoe operator asked other workers to take a closer look at the find, and the crews determined that they had uncovered two large leg bones “that clearly were not from farm animals.”

Researchers from the University of Michigan later confirmed to WOOD that crews had discovered the remains of a mastodon, a prehistoric, hairy elephant common in the Michigan area roughly 12,000 years ago.

“We think it’s a young one, mainly because the bones haven’t fused,” Scott Beld, a research assistant at the Museum of Paleontology at the University of Michigan, told the TV station.

“What I thought [was initially discovered] was a femur and a tibia. But just in the last few minutes we’re looking at them, and they may be two femurs and from the same side. If that’s the case, we have two animals,” he added.

The bones are expected to be donated to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, MLive.com reported.

“This was a very unique situation and opportunity,” Cory Redman, the museum’s science curator who led the excavation, told the news outlet.

The University of Michigan will process the excavation’s finds before turning them over to the Grand Rapids facility, WOOD reported.

According to MLive.com, another mastodon – determined to be a male that lived to between 20 and 30 years – was discovered five years ago while crews were developing a West Michigan housing project.

By contrast, Beld told the news outlet that Thursday’s find appears to be a juvenile mastodon between the ages of 10 and 12.

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