Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pleistocene Vertebrates of Berrien County, Michigan

The Pleistocene epoch lasted from about 1.8 million years ago until 10,000 years ago. In 1967, Richard Wilson (.pdf) reported on the remains of 53 species of vertebrates (11 fish, 4 reptiles, 3 birds, and 35 mammals) that were present in what is now Michigan shortly after the end of the last Ice Age about 14,000 years ago.

Of the 7 Pleistocene species (all mammals) recorded from Berrien County, 4 are now extinct, 1 is extirpated from the county, and 1 remains extant; these 7 species represent 3 orders, 5 families, and 7 genera:

Family Castoridae:
  • Castoroides ohioensis, Giant Beaver – Extinct since about 10,000 years ago.
    Family Mammuthidae:
  • Mammut americanum, American Mastodon – Remains were found about 4 feet below the surface, directly above a layer of gravel and clay, in May 1964 in Lincoln Township; Extinct since about 11,000 years ago.

    Family Elephantidae:
  • Mammuthus jeffersoni, Jefferson’s Mammoth – A right upper third molar was found in a gravel layer nearly 100 feet below the surface near Watervliet in 1961, and a nearly complete skeleton was discovered in Eau Clair; Extinct since about 11,000 years ago.
    Family Cervidae:
  • Cervus canadensis, Elk – A lower third premolar was collected in 1949; and antler, skull, and radius fragments were dredged from sediments at the mouth of the St. Joseph River in 1957; Extirpated from Berrien County.
  • Odocoileus virginianus, White-tailed Deer – A skull fragment was collected from a soil horizon about 8 miles south of St. Joseph in 1941, and portions of a skeleton were dredged from the mouth of the St. Joseph River in 1957; Extant and thriving.
  • Cervalces scotti, Stag-Moose – Part of an antler was found at an undisclosed location; Extinct since about 11,500 years ago.

    Family Bovidae:
  • Bootherium bombifrons (=Symbos cavifrons), Woodland Muskoxen – A vertebra was discovered one foot below the surface atop a 60-foot bluff along the St. Joseph River at the corner of Hill Crest Drive and Kimber Lane in Berrien Springs; Extinct since about 11,500 years ago.

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