Giant Mammals 10,000 Years Ago Along the Indian River Lagoon

Ten thousand years ago some of the largest mammals ever known lived right here along the northern central Indian River Lagoon.
Ten thousand years ago some of the largest mammals ever known lived  along the  Indian River Lagoon. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)

I am in Melbourne, Florida, serving as a delegate for the Marine Resources Council’s  Action Assembly of the Indian River Lagoon. I got here early and started reading up on this area of the lagoon that is suffering from marine mammal deaths of manatees and dolphins. Brevard County holds 60% of the lagoon and basically just about all of their sea grasses are now dead and though over nitrified water certainly fed the super bloom that killed the sea grasses, scientists feel there is more to the story. But scientists are not allowed to just feel, they have to “prove” so the struggle to explain what happened continues…

The assembly is being held at Florida Tech, which sits close to Crane Creek, a tributary of the IRL. About 10,000 years ago Mammoths lived here and their gigantic skeletons have been excavated. Paleontologist have also found bones of mastodon, horses, camels, the 20 foot tall ground sloth (the largest mammal to ever roam North America) along with tapir, peccary, camel and my favorite, the incredible saber-toothed cat.


Image from (

Although humans also lived in this area 10,000 years ago, it was not until modern times that Crane Creek was drastically altered. In 1922, after the times of the pioneers, efforts to drain the area under Florida statute 298 were successful and the M-1 canal along with with feeder canals dried the lands of the surrounding area and inland along the St Johns River for agriculture that the real estate ads had promised.

Today the area is highly populated and is the home of a struggling NASA. A six lane highway abuts the once beautiful Indian River Lagoon and concrete is everywhere.

of course, times change, still it is hard to picture Mammoths walking around here! I wonder what this area will look like in another 10,000 years? Maybe something weirder than a 20 foot sloth or humans will walk or climb. Maybe something smarter? I hope.

2 thoughts on “Giant Mammals 10,000 Years Ago Along the Indian River Lagoon

Leave a Reply