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Fossil-Treasures-of-Florida-Newsletter, Issue #0018 -- Fossil Bison Tooth VS Fossil Camel Tooth
July 29, 2013

Fossil Newsletter, Issue #0018 - How to Identify a Fossil Bison Tooth from a Fossil Camel Tooth

In this Issue:

* How to Identify a Bison Tooth Fossil from a Camel Tooth Fossil
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How to Identify a Bison Tooth Fossil from a Camel Tooth Fossil

You may be asking: “Is this really a problem?” “Why yes it is.” If you are hunting fossil teeth in Florida this problem will come-up.

Bison and Camel roamed Florida together 20,000 years ago. They are long since gone from the wild’s of the Sunshine State, but many of their fossil teeth remain. These two plant eaters have very similar teeth at first glance, and it is easy to misidentify the two.

Bison have teeth of a grazer that mostly eats grass. Grass contains more silica and wears their teeth down quicker than browsing herbivores. Camels have teeth of a browser and eat leaves, bark, twigs, etc. which have less silica and their teeth wear more slowly than grazers.

Camels were more abundant in Florida than Bison, and you will almost always find more fossil camel / llama teeth in Florida than Bison, however, the reverse is true for the rest of the country.

The biggest clue between identifying fossilized teeth of these two types is that the Bison teeth and also Bovine / Modern Cows (Bos taurus species) have a “stylid” on the side of their tooth. The stylid can change its look a bit from tooth to tooth and as the animal ages its teeth wear down along with the stylid.

If you look at the above picture, you can see by the point of this ink pen that between the two ridges of this fossil tooth lays a pillar of enamel. This pillar of enamel is the stylid.

The appearance of the stylid on the left fossil tooth is from a Bison and is not a camel tooth. Of course, the absence of this stylid would help confirm for a Camel Tooth.

In general, the Bison or Cow Teeth tend to be a larger tooth than a Camel Tooth, although there has been some giant camelids in Florida. Both Bison and Cows teeth have stylids, but the stylids on Cow’s teeth are fragile and often erodes away and, of course, are not fossils. Camel/Llama teeth have kind of a "set of steps" type of look to them and No stylid.

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