Bison latifrons
Ice age mammals of North Dakota
Exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center
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Bison latifrons skull

The scientific name Bison latifrons is derived from the Greek language and refers to this  bison's broad cranium and large horns.  They were huge animals, the largest of all North American bison with horn cores that spanned over 200 cm compared with horn core spans of about 65 cm for the living North American bison.  They were about 25% larger than the living bison.  Bison latifrons inhabited North Dakota during the last Ice Age at the same time that mammoths and mastodons lived here.  Bone from this fossil was radiocarbon dated indicating that it is over 47,500 years old.  Bison latifrons inhabited forest openings/woodland areas unlike the grassland-dwelling modern bison.  They lived in small groups unlike the herding modern bison.  Bison latifrons became extinct during the last Ice Age several thousand years ago.

This specimen, the only Bison latifrons skull ever found in North Dakota, was discovered by Kent Pelton of Watford City on U. S. Army Corps of Engineers administered land within the Fort Berthold Reservation near New Town.  Funding for restoration of the skull was provided by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Garrison Project.

Bison latifrons exhibit at the Heritage Center.
Bison latifrons skull on display in the main gallery of the Heritage Center.
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Jefferson's Ground  Sloth
Reconstruction of Jefferson's ground sloth from the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. ©
Megalonyx jeffersonii Claw 

The scientific name of the giant ground sloth or Jefferson's ground sloth, Megalonyx jeffersonii, is derived from the Greek language and refers to the large claw on the third digit of each of the sloths hind feet.  Thomas Jefferson, a paleontologist amongst other things, gave the name Megalonyx to these giant ground sloths in a 1797 presentation to the American Philosophical Society.  It was later given the name Megalonyx jeffersonii in honor of Thomas Jefferson.
Megalonyx jeffersonii was a bear-sized, some over 2 meters tall, ground sloth.  It lived in North Dakota during the last Ice Age about 11,000 years ago and became extinct at the end of the Ice Age.  Although it was widespread in North America during the last Ice Age, this claw is the first fossil found of Megalonyx in North Dakota. It was found by Linda and Doug Vannurden of Mandan on U. S. Army Corps of Engineers administered land south of Bismarck. Thomas Jefferson gave Meriwether Lewis a specific directive to look for fossils during the Corps of Discovery expedition so it is ironic that almost 200 years later this specimen was found along the shore passed by the expedition.

Megalonyx jeffers claw
Megalonyx jeffersonii claw
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Equus teeth
Equus sp.,  teeth

Equus sp.,  teeth

The scientific name Equus is derived from the Latin language and means horse.  Horses have lived in North Dakota for at least 30 million years.  The early horses, such as Mesohippus, where small animals about the size of sheep and had three toes on each foot.  They possessed low crowned teeth and were browsers.  Equus sp., similar to today's horse, lived in North Dakota at the end of the last Ice Age about 11,000 years ago. They had one toe on each foot and high crowned teeth adapted for eating grasses like today's horse. Equus sp. ranged widely over North America at that the end of the Ice Age but became extinct in North America several thousand years ago.  It is not known why they became extinct in North America.  Horses were reintroduced into North America by the Spaniard Cortez in 1520.

These fossil teeth were found in a gravel pit in Burleigh County south of Bismarck.

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Camelus? sp.  metatarsus

The scientific name Camelus is derived from the Latin language and means camel.  Small, goat-sized camels lived in North Dakota about 30 million years ago.  This metatarsus (foot bone) is however from a camel that inhabited North Dakota during the last Ice Age.  It would have been about the size of a llama.  These camels became extinct in North America several thousand years ago.

This fossil was found in a gravel deposit near Williston, Williams County by David Johnson.

Camelus? metatarsus
Camelus? sp.  metatarsus
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Acknowledgments

We thank Kent Pelton, Linda and Doug Vannurden, and David Johnson for calling to our attention the fossils in this exhibit that they discovered.  We also thank the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District and Three Affiliated Tribes for allowing us to display the Bison latifrons skull and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Garrison Project  for providing funding for the exhibit.

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North Dakota Paleontology Exhibits
Updated: 28.11.07