Archaeologists discovered the bones of an extinct species of bison aged 13,000 to 14,000 years old at the Old Vero Man Site, Vero Beach in Florida. The ancient bison species was a Bison antiquus, which populated the North American continent for over 10,000 years.

The archaeologists from the Florida Atlantic University’s Harbour Branch Oceanographic Institute uncovered the remains about 10 feet or three metres deep under the ground’s surface at the Vero Beach site. The team describes the Bison antiquus, also known as the ancient bison to some, as a large herbivore that weighed almost 3,500 pounds (1,587 kilogrammes) and grew up to eight feet tall (two metres) and 15 feet (4.5 metres) long.

The ancient bison was a direct ancestor of the American bison. The modern American bison nearly suffered the same tragic fate as their ancestors but has now recovered.

ancient bison

The remains of the American bison’s ancestor have been found. Credit: Wikimedia/Jack Dykinga

The researchers analysed the extinct bison’s molar. Its bones were not well-preserved since the diet of grassland-adapted animals like it cause the bones to normally disintegrate almost completely after death.

“Along with the fact that bones like this have never been found on land as part of a calculated archaeological effort,” says study’s principal investigator James Adovasio. “Others like this have all been found underwater, in sinkholes or streams.”

The remains of the extinct bison have now been transferred to the university’s Ancient DNA Lab at Harbour Branch. The team will conduct more examinations to gather more insights from these bones. “We couldn’t have asked for a better representative species from that era,” points out lead archaeologist Andrew Hemmings. “We now know that people were here in Vero Beach at that time.”

Apart from the bison’s bones, the research team also discovered other bones of other large mammals, probably from a mammoth, mastodon or sloth. They also excavated pieces of charcoal as well as the head of a fly.