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Fossil of long-extinct big cat found in dried up Mississippi River sandbar
ROSEDALE, Miss. - A person walking along a newly exposed sandbar in a now-shallow portion of the Mississippi River stumbled upon a fossil from an animal that went extinct about 11,000 years ago.
Wiley Prewitt told The Sun Herald he was poking around in the recently dried up portion of the river when he uncovered what turned out to be the partial jawbone of an American lion.
“I could tell from the teeth right away that it was a fragment of a carnivore’s jaw but I dared not hope it was from an American lion,” Prewitt said. “It certainly looked right but I wouldn’t let myself believe it.”
The animal was once the largest big cat in North America, and it lived on the continent as far back as 340,000 years ago. Researchers believe it was nearly four feet tall and weighed up to 1,000 pounds in some cases, making it about 25 percent larger than modern African lions.
The discovery is just the latest historic find in the Mississippi River, with drought condition exposing a century-old shipwreck in Baton Rouge over the summer.
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