April 10, 2006

Prehistoric Bones Unearthed in Everglades

CLEWISTON, Fla. (AP) - Prehistoric bones believed to belong to ancient sloths have been discovered by construction crews working on the massive Everglades restoration project.

The bones were found April 1 by workers with the South Florida Water Management District constructing a 2,000-acre storm water treatment area about 50 miles northwest of Miami, district spokesman Roberto Fabricio said Monday.

The plant-eating animals the size of elephants became extinct at least 4,000 years ago.

Scientists from the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville planned to begin excavating the site and collecting the bones on Tuesday.

"It's always possible that something new or a better representation of something rare will show up in these sites," said Russell McCarty, a senior museum paleontologist. "We're always interested to see."

Just one piece of a jaw bone measures 2 feet long, Fabricio said.

"We take extreme care to protect Indian artifacts and archaeological finds," he said, noting that the discovery "adds a little more mystique to the Everglades."

The Everglades project is attempting to restore natural water flows to the environmentally sensitive wetlands.