GRAY, Tenn. (AP) - Researchers have used the discovery of a bear's lower jaw and teeth to help pinpoint the age of a major fossil site unearthed by road construction crews.
The 5-acre site, found in 2000 during a project to widen Tennessee 75 about 10 miles outside Johnson City, had been dated in the Miocene Epoch, some 4.5 million to 18 million years ago, based on the fossilized remains of an ancient rhinoceros.
The presence of a short-faced bear's remains found this summer allowed East Tennessee State University paleontologist Steven Wallace to change the estimate of the age of site to between 4.5 million and 7 million years old.
The most common fossils at the site come from tapirs, animals resembling pigs but related to horses. The type found at the Gray site appear to be a dwarf version of modern tapirs, which still live in other parts of the world.