Scuba Divers Find Rare Ice Age Mammoth Bone at Bottom of Florida River

Florida scuba divers Derek Demeter and Henry Sadler found a four-foot, 50-pound mammoth femur embedded in the sand at the bottom of the Peace River last Sunday. In an interview with The Orlando Sentinel, they called it a "once-in-a-lifetime" discovery.

"When you uncover this fossil and realize there were these giant, elephant-like creatures roaming around what was probably once a grassland in Florida, it gives you a sense of wonder for what it was like back in ancient times," Demeter, the director of Seminole State College's Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium, said. "It's kind of like our way of time traveling. It makes your imagination go wild."

Fossil hunter Henry Sadler with mammoth bone.
Henry Sadler and Derek Demeter dredged this mammoth bone up from the bottom of the Peace River in Arcadia, FL. Instagram/thinkseek

The pair had originally intended to head to Venice to search for shark teeth that day, April 25, but strong winds deterred them, Sadler told NBC2. Instead, the dive buddies decided to take a dip in the Peace River, a waterway located in the city of Arcadia.

"[Henry] came up, and he's like, 'Derek, I found something amazing,' and he's just freaking out," Demeter said. "When I saw it, I couldn't believe it. I was in denial. It was really neat to see that be discovered."

The pair speculate that the bone belonged to a Columbian mammoth. So tall "a person would need to stand on the second floor of a building to touch its head," according to the National Park Service, Columbian mammoths inhabited Florida between 2.6 million and 10,000 years ago. Predation by humans may have contributed to their extinction, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

"This one's much more dense, so we kind of think it's somewhere in the middle. Probably 100,000 years old," Demeter told FOX 35 Orlando of the bone. In an Instagram post, Sadler, who found mammoth teeth in the river on one previous occasion, described it as "almost completely undamaged and very well mineralized."

While Sadler and Demeter typically donate their fossil discoveries to the Florida Museum of Natural History, Sadler, a middle school teacher in St. Petersburg, has stationed the mammoth bone in his classroom to educate his students about Ice Age animal life. There, they're "able to see it, touch it, feel it and really get a history of the natural world," he told the Sentinel.

"They've heard about saber-toothed tigers and actually finding a piece of one of those animals and bringing it to life for those kids—it's just awesome," he said.

In addition to the mammoth bone, Demeter and Saddler also recovered the remnants of an ancient shark and the tip of a saber-toothed tiger canine during the dive, according to FOX 35.