Find by Science Center Member Published in Missouri Archaeology

“LOOK! I FOUND A FOSSIL!”

Bison Vertibrae discovered by Saint Louis Science Center Member Gary S.

Ice Age bison vertibrae discovered along the banks of the Missouri River in St. Charles County

This is probably not what Gary Schaefer, St. Charles County resident and Science Center member, exclaimed after picking up what turned out to be the vertebrae of an Ice Age bison. Schaefer happened upon the fossilized vertebrae sticking out of a sandbar along the banks of the Missouri River in St. Charles County.

After bringing the mystery fossil into the Science Center, his find was confirmed to be the vertebrae of Bison antiquas, an ancestor of the modern day bison that lived during the late Pleistocene epoch over 230,000 years ago.  As the director of Earth Sciences at the Science Center, I knew this was a fascinating find and helped Schaefer share his find with the Illinois State Museum. The director of the museum, R. Bruce McMillan, then featured the fossil in his latest research on prehistoric bison (skeleton pictured below).

Next time you’re outside, look down, and see what you find. You don’t have to be a scientist to make incredible discoveries! 

Some facts about Bison antiquus:

-Horns could grow to be up to three feet long!

-Despite their size, they were agile and could run great distances

-Shared their woodland and savanna habitat with giant ground sloths, horses, camels and mammoths

-Could be up to 15 feet long and 7 feet high at the shoulder

Prehistoric Bison Skeleton

Prehistoric Bison Skeleton

Written by Ron Giesler, Director of Earth Sciences

You can bring your fossil finds in to the Dana Brown Fossil Prep Lab nearly every day of the week for help with identification. You can call ahead at 314.289.4429.

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