Construction Workers in Michigan Discover Remains of a Mastodon Skeleton

Mike Siereveld
Mike Siereveld

Construction workers sometimes find themselves moonlighting as paleontologists after inadvertently digging up the remains of prehistoric creatures. In August, for example, a crew in Thornton, Colorado, found a 66-million-year-old adult triceratops skeleton while breaking ground for a public safety facility. Now, hot on the heels of that discovery, the Associated Press reports that workers in Michigan have unearthed bones that belonged to a male American mastodon that died between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago.

The discovery took place in the small town of Byron Center on August 31, when contractors for local home building company Eagle Creek Homes LLC stumbled across the bones while preparing the site of a new housing development.

"Our excavation crew, Bultema Excavating, was digging out a mucky soil area to move to another area in the development when they discovered something unusual in a load of muck," Joe Siereveld, an owner and partner in Eagle Creek Homes, tells Mental Floss. "Closer examination revealed that they were some type of large bones."

At this point, Eagle Creek Homes contacted experts at the University of Michigan to help identify the remains. There, Dan Fisher, director of the university's paleontology museum, "confirmed the bones belonged to a 20-to-30-year-old male mastodon that lived 10,000 to 12,000 years ago," Siereveld says.

Workers initially found only three large bones, but they've since dug up 12 more skeleton fragments, according to Siereveld. He and his business partner, Mike Siereveld, plan to donate their growing fossil collection—which appears to include parts of the extinct mammal's lower jaw, skull, limb bones, pelvis, and spine—to the University of Michigan for research and display.

For Mike Siereveld, the find was "a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he tells Mental Floss. But according to Fisher, it's not uncommon to find fossils like this in Michigan, as both mastodons and mammoths were once drawn to the region's lakes and vegetation. He estimates that around two to three similar discoveries are made in Michigan each year.

But occasionally, these kinds of bones can help scientists draw exciting new conclusions about early life in the Americas. In 2015, for example, Fisher was called to the scene after farmers in the state's Washtenaw County found a remarkably intact wooly mammoth skeleton. Evidence suggests that the mammal had been hunted and killed by humans 15,000 years ago—around 2000 years before humans are believed to have arrived in Michigan.

Check out more pictures of the newly discovered Michigan mastodon skeleton below:

Mike Siereveld

Mike Siereveld

[h/t AP]

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More


This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.


Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

Home Appliances


- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Video games


- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets


- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs


- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa(4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

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Scientists Come Closer to Understanding COVID-19 'Cytokine Storms'

Science is closer to understanding what prompts severe COVID-19 illness.
Science is closer to understanding what prompts severe COVID-19 illness.
Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

Researchers are one step closer to understanding the mechanisms behind "cytokine storms," an immune system reaction that can cause severe COVID-19 symptoms in patients infected with the coronavirus. In a new paper published in the journal Cell, scientists from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital describe their identification of the specific cytokines, or small proteins, that are produced by the body in an effort to fight the virus but sometimes overreact and wind up causing damage, including inflammation, lung injury, and organ failure.

After examining the many different kinds of cytokines in the body, researchers determined that no single cytokine caused this inflammatory response. Instead, it appears to be a combination of two specific cytokines, dubbed tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interferon (INF)-gamma, that work in collusion to cause inflammatory cell death.

By identifying these proteins as the culprit, researchers suggested that administering neutralizing antibodies and disrupting the protein pathways that promote cell death might present a new treatment method for COVID-19.

COVID-19 can prompt a "cytokine storm" that can cause severe symptoms.St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

"Understanding the pathways and mechanism driving this inflammation is critical to develop effective treatment strategies," co-author Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, vice chair of St. Jude's department of immunology, said in a press release. "This research provides that understanding. We also identified the specific cytokines that activate inflammatory cell death pathways and have considerable potential for treatment of COVID-19 and other highly fatal diseases, including sepsis."

Thus far, this theory has only been tested in mice, which received neutralizing antibodies and were protected from severe COVID-19 symptoms. But in isolating the exact cytokines involved, it will likely be easier to locate an effective treatment, either from an existing drug or one developed specifically for the task. In time, researchers hope clinical trials of select drugs can be another tool in the fight against the virus.

[h/t PennLive]