Ice-Age Mammoth Bones Found Under Oregon Football Field

A construction crew uncovered the remains of the beast while digging in the north end of Reser Stadium.

Oregon State University might want to consider changing its mascot after a monumental find yesterday (Jan. 25): The discovery of bones belonging to an ice-age mammoth within throwing distance of the school's football field.

A construction crew working on an expansion and renovation of the OSU Beavers' Valley Football Center uncovered the remains of the beast while digging in the north end of Reser Stadium. They found a large femur bone - likely a mammoth's - as well as bones from other extinct, ice-age mammals, including a bison and what is either an ancient horse or a camel.

"There are quite a few bones, and dozens of pieces," Loren Davis, an associate professor of anthropology at OSU, said in a statement. "Some of the bones are not in very good shape, but some are actually quite well preserved." [Image Gallery: Stunning Mammoth Unearthed]

Davis and his students have yet to determine the mammoth's species - for instance, it could be a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) or a woolly mammoth (M. primigenius), although the latter tended to live farther north.

Davis' team also plans to use radiocarbon dating to determine how long ago the mammoth lived. Radiocarbon dating can date once-living organisms back to about 50,000 years, although different methods can help date older organic material.

In Siberia, researchers recently found a 45,000-year-old mammoth carcass with injuries indicating that ancient humans had butchered it. But the newfound mammoth in Oregon bears no such injuries, suggesting that it died of natural causes, Davis said.

"They weren't hunted by people, that's clear," he said. "Animals who were sick would often go to a body of water and die there, so it's not unusual to find a group of bones like this."

Perhaps when these animals died, at least 10,000 years ago, the area where the stadium now stands was a bog or marsh that served as a watering hole for ice-age animals, Davis said.

Construction workers found the animal bones in a 10-foot-deep (3 meters) plot. They stopped work as soon as they uncovered the femur, said Tim Sissel, the senior project manager of Hunt/Fortis, a joint venture and general contractor on the project.

However, because there were no human artifacts or remains found, the site is not considered an archaeological site, Davis said. So, he and his colleagues removed the dirt containing the bones, and construction on the stadium continued.

Now that he has the bones, Davis said he would soak them in water to thwart further deterioration. The members of the team will also continue to examine the pile of dirt that encased the bones to see whether they can find any more ice-age remains.

"It just goes to show that there's a whole world of the past that exists under the ground, and [it's] so neat that we could actually find it here at Reser stadium," Davis said. "As you're watching a football game, you can be thinking that beneath your foot lie the bodies of extinct animals that relate to the past."

Photos: A 40,000-Year-Old Mammoth Autopsy Photos: Mammoth Bones Unearthed from Michigan Farm 10 Extinct Giants That Once Roamed North America Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Article first appeared on LiveScience.

Shown is a femur, likely a mammoth's, that was found at Oregon State University.

Aug. 30, 2011 --

Evolution and natural selection have played a role in the ever-changing landscape of plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. Although species evolve as they find their niche and adapt to new opportunities, some animals have remained relatively unchanged over the course of history. These animals are known as living fossils. Compared to the animals on this list, humans are relative newcomers to this planet. Homo sapiens emerged out of Africa a mere 200,000 years ago. Many living fossils are considerably older than humans and other mammals; some have even outlasted the dinosaurs. In this slideshow, take an up-close look at animals that have persevered virtually unchanged through the ages and continue to thrive today. We begin with the platypus, an unusual egg-laying animal with fur, a bill and a venomous bite. Charles Darwin himself coined the term "living fossil" while observing the platypus. Native to eastern Australia, the animal is the only surviving example of its family, Ornithorhynchidae. This group of animals is believed to have split from mammals some 166 million years ago.

The horseshoe crab could hold the distinction of being the oldest animal species still in existence. Dating back to the Paleozoic era, the horseshoe crab existed on Earth before the dinosaurs and soldiered on through several mass extinction events. In 2008, a horseshoe crab fossil, the oldest in existence found so far, dated back to around 445 million years ago, according to a report by LiveScience.

The tadpole shrimp, Triops cancriformis, is another contender for the title of oldest living animal species. This shrimp is related to the horseshoe crab so its longevity should come as no surprise. According to a report by The Telegraph, the tadpole shrimp as it appears today is virtually identical to a fossil of a specimen that lived some 200 million years ago just as dinosaurs rose to prominence. Despite the animal's remarkable endurance, the tadpole shrimp is currently listed as an endangered species.

Once thought to be extinct in the same event that killed off the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, the coelacanth is a lobe-finned fish that sparked a debate over whether this species represented a missing link between aquatic animals and four-legged terrestrial creatures, according to National Geographic. The animal was rediscovered in 1938 and only two species of coelacanth still exist today. In 2007, a fossilized coelacanth fin was found dating back roughly 400 million years.

Snapping turtles as we know them first walked the earth some 40 million years ago, but they have been virtually unchanged over the past 215 million years of their evolution, according to Tortoise Trust. Although not among the most endangered tortoises and turtles according to the Turtle Conservation Coalition, the snapping turtle is listed as threatened.

The more than 20 species of alligators and crocodiles living today have evolved beyond their more primitive ancestors. But the basic physical design of these reptiles has remained essentially the same for the past 320 million years or so. Alligators and crocodiles share a common ancestry, though the two groups separated from each other some 60 million years ago.

The nautilus is the most primitive cephalopod in existence, a group that includes the most complex squid and octopus. Dating back to more than half a billion years ago, the nautilus reached the high point in its evolution during the Paleozoic era about 505 million to 408 million years ago. Several species of nautilus still survive today -- relatively unchanged from their ancestral counterparts.

Goblin sharks are rare, deep-sea dwellers with a unique elongated nose that distinguishes them from other sharks. They're also ancient, and are between 112 million to 124 million years old as a species. Around 2,000 different species of fossil sharks have been discovered, according to the ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. The earliest sharks predate the dinosaurs by more than 200 million years.

The cockroach is famous for being a survivor. These insects can survive for weeks without their heads and even withstand the fallout following a nuclear blast. Cockroaches are also an especially long-surviving animal. Roaches have thrived on Earth for some 320 million years, with an estimated 5 million to 10 million individual species ranging in shape, size and habitat. This photo shows Blaberus giganteus, one of the largest species of cockroach on Earth.

Hagfish may have had to endure a less-than-flattering name since scientists first described them in the 18th century. However, these famously ugly marine animals have existed for about half a billion years. The hagfish also represents an important evolutionary step in the development of vision. These ancient fish may have been among the earliest animals to evolve more complex, camera-like eyes as opposed to the strictly photosensitive vision possessed by more primitive species. As such, the hagfish represents a kind of missing link in the evolution of the eye.

Compared to other animals on this list, the mouse deer, better known as a chevrotain, is a relative newcomer. For a large mammal, however, it's relatively old. This animal is among the only survivors of a group of hoofed mammals that lived some 35 million years ago.