Rare Extinct American Lion Fossil Discovered Thanks to Mississippi River Drying Up: ScienceAlert

In late October, a Mississippi resident made a rare find along the drought-stricken Mississippi River — a fossilized jawbone of an American lion that roamed the area about 11,000 years ago, according to McClatchy News.

This is only the fourth fossil of the ancient American lion found in Mississippi, according to the outlet.

Local resident Wiley Prewitt came across what looked like a huge black tooth in the sand and decided to bring the find to a Mississippi Fossils and Artifacts Symposium and Exhibit on October 29.

“I could tell straight away from my teeth that it was a fragment of the jawbone of a carnivore, but I dared not hope that it was an American lion,” said Prewitt told McClatchy News. “It certainly looked right, but I wouldn’t allow myself to believe it.”

Experts have confirmed that it belongs to the species Panthera atrox, more commonly known as the Great American Lion. Researchers believe it was the largest cat on the continent, measuring nearly 2.4 meters long, 4 feet tall and weighing up to 1,000 pounds, according to the National Park Service.

It has been extinct for about 11,000 years.

The Mississippi River is a vital transportation route, and its exceptionally low water levels have disrupted navigation in several states in recent months.

Some places along the river reported their lowest water levels in 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in its latest climate report, adding that barges were unable to clean up parts of the river and ran aground.

Falling water levels exposed long submerged objects

The fossil is the last remnant of the past unearthed by the Mississippi River drought. In early October, low water levels revealed an old sunken ship along the banks of the river.

Archaeologists believe the remains are from a ferry that sank in the late 19th or early 20th century after being damaged in a storm, the Associated Press reported.

Although this is the first time the ship has been fully exposed, small parts of the ship emerged from low water in the 1990s.

“At this time, the ship was completely filled with mud and there was mud all around, so only the tops of the sides were visible,” Louisiana state archaeologist Chip McGimsey told the AP when wreckage emerged in October.

“They had to move a lot of dirt just to get narrow windows to see pieces,” McGimsey said.

According to a growing body of research, rising global temperatures from burning fossil fuels increase evaporation, making droughts more severe.

Experts previously told Insider that as human-caused climate change warms the planet and intensifies droughts, more remnants of the past could be unearthed by receding waters.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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