Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 2, July, 2000 Page: 83
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The Ice Age Megafauna of Colorado County, Texas
tocene) on the Texas prairies than Ice Age horses noted above. The skeletal remains were
excavated in early 1913 in northeastern Colorado County just north of the Southern Pacific
tracks and near the Wharton County line. Prominent rice planter Griffith Edwards Thomas
uncovered them while digging a water well. This discovery was called to the attention of Dr.
Mark Francis, a professor at Texas A & M, who obtained the material and sent it to Wash-
ington for Smithsonian Institution paleontologist Oliver P. Hay to study. In 1915, Hay named
the ancient animal Equus francisci in honor of Dr. Francis, who was responsible for pre-
serving many fossil remains in Texas in the early decades of this century. These bones are
now preserved in the paleontological collections at the University of Texas at Austin.9
The extinct tapir (Tapirus sp.) has modern counterparts in Latin America and
southeastern Asia. Imagine seeing these long-extinct, heavy-bodied, and snouted creatures
foraging along an Ice Age watercourse, which, for all we know, may have resembled our
present-day Colorado River. In 1928, fossil remains of this massive creature were unearthed
at the Gemmer and Tanner gravel pit near Alleyton.10 The bones were received and identi-
fied by Dr. Francis and, like those of Equus francisci, now are preserved in the paleonto-
logical collections at the University of Texas in Austin. Other tapir bones are reported from
sites in Polk, San Jacinto, and San Patricio Counties and central Texas.
Mammalian Order ARTIODACTYLA (Even-toed Ungulates)
A diverse array of cloven-hoofed mammals roamed the Colorado County coun-
tryside in Ice Age times. Included were peccaries, camels, deer, antilocaprids, and bison.
Extinct peccaries (Mylohyus sp., Platygonus sp.) appear to have thrived better in Ice Age
times on the Texas coast than does today's smaller collared peccary, their surviving local
relative. These creatures are only distantly akin to Old World swine, including the domestic
breeds brought here by settlers scores of centuries after the demise of the extinct peccaries.
Skeletal remains of these peccaries have been unearthed in San Patricio County, central
Texas, and on the Edwards Plateau.
Extinct camels (Camelops sp.), representatives on the Texas prairies of mod-
ern Old World camels and South American llamas and their allies, apparently were wide-
spread in North America in past geologic times but, like many other Ice Age creatures,
failed to survive into the Holocene. Restorations indicate that extinct species thriving in early
Texas probably resembled today's Old World camels more than those relatives now living in
South America. Fossil remains are reported from Austin and San Patricio counties, central
Texas, and from the Edwards Plateau.
9 Eagle Lake Headlight, February 1, 1913 and Hay, "Contributions to the knowledge of the mammals
of the Pleistocene of North America."
10 Colorado County Citizen, August 23, 1928.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 2, July, 2000, periodical, July 2000; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151409/m1/19/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.