The Daytona Beach Bone Beds Fossil site

Most people vacationing in Daytona Beach want to see car racing, but if I went there, I’d rather go to the Museum of Arts and Sciences.  Specimens of a giant ground sloth (Eremotherium laurillardi) and a mastodon, both excavated from a nearby fossil site, are mounted there.  The fossiliferous layer where they originated exists 12 feet below ground near Reed Canal Park, and most of the fossils there are discovered by accident when construction crews bulldoze into the earth.  The almost complete skeleton of the giant ground sloth was discovered during 1975, and the mastodon was discovered more recently by James Zacharias, the former curator of the Museum of Arts and Sciences.

View from inside the Museum of Arts and Sciences at Daytona Beach, Florida.

This is the only mention I can find of the Daytona Beach Bone Beds in the scientific literature.  It’s about gompothere specimens found in Florida.  Gompotheres were a tropical elephant relative that expanded its range into Florida during the warmest of interglacial climate phases.  Page from the below referenced article.

Curiously, no scientific papers describe the site (as far as I can find), and there isn’t much about it in the scientific literature.  There are hundreds of fossil sites in Florida, and I suppose scientists think this is just another routine site in the state.  Perhaps, there just aren’t enough professional paleontologists to study all the sites in that state.  I found just 1 scientific paper that even mentions the Daytona Beach Bone Beds.  It’s an article in the middle of a really obscure journal.  The article describes the gompothere fossils found in Florida, and some of the specimens are from the Daytona Beach Bone Beds.  Gompotheres were a relative of elephants and had a similar appearance.  Unlike mastodons and mammoths, gompotheres did not have fur and were adapted to live in tropical climates.  They looked more like African and Asian elephants than mammoths and mastodons did, though mammoths were more closely related to present day elephants than either gompotheres or mastodons were.  Gompotheres expanded their range north during warm interglacials.  The presence of Eremotherium and gompothere, both tropical species, suggests the fossils were deposited at this site about 130,000 years ago during the Sangamonian Interglacial.  3 different kinds of elephant-like animals plus giant ground sloths inhabited the region during the same time.  How remarkable.  The site is thought to have formerly been a large river mouth similar to the present day St. John’s River.  One newspaper reports over 50 species of mammals have been excavated from the site.  From piecing together newspaper reports and information from the University of Florida Museum of Natural History database, I count 2 species of fish and 34 species of mammals.  Here is the list.  * denotes extinct species

Atlantic croaker

spotted seatrout

least shrew

Carolina shrew

eastern mole

red bat

*giant ground sloth (Eremotherium)

*Harlan’s ground sloth

*beautiful armadillo

*pampathere (a giant armadillo)


*woodland vole (Microtus hibbardi)

Florida muskrat

cotton mouse

cotton rat

rice rat



gray squirrel

southern flying squirrel

bog lemming


cottontail rabbit



black bear

*Florida spectacled bear

bottlenose dolphin



*long-horned bison


white tailed deer





Luoges, S; G. Morgan, J. Spielman, and D. Prothero

Neogene Mammals

New Mexico Museum of Natural History 44 2006

“Cuveronious (Mammalia: Proboscidea) from the Neogene of Florida”



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2 Responses to “The Daytona Beach Bone Beds Fossil site”

  1. pip2771 Says:

    I absolutely loved reading this. So interesting and I’ve learned something new today. I’m following you for sure, want to read more 👏

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