KENT CITY Mich. — It all started with a very large femur.
When Kevin Busscher dipped the scoop of his excavator into the soft Michigan soil last month he knew the thigh bone he plucked from the dirt was far too big to have belonged to a cow or a horse. And he knew the culvert he was replacing would have to wait.
“My first thought was ‘woolly mammoth!’” said Mr. Busscher who reported his find to the county officials overseeing the project who relayed photos of the bones to scientists.
As it turned out he had found the skeleton of a mastodon an elephant-like beast that roamed North America during the last ice age. By the next morning a team of university and museum researchers had assembled to extract the rest of the bones. When they pulled out the mastodon’s massive jaw several bright white teeth were still in place.