Fishermen caught quite the catch with this huge skull and antlers of an extinct Irish elk. Credit: Pat Grimes/Ardboe Heritage
Fishermen in Northern Ireland, pulled in the catch of a lifetime on Wednesday (Sept. 5), when they captured a giant Irish elk skull, which is estimated at more than 10,500 years old. The impressive model is about 6 feet (1.8 meters) across and is almost completely intact.
Raymond McElroy and his assistant, Charlie Coyle, drew the huge antlers in their fishing net in the north-west of Lough Neagh, is a large freshwater lake. The men were fishing in the water, not more than 20 feet (6 meters) deep, roughly a half-mile from the coast, said Pat Grimes, a local historian, who shared his photos of the impressive discovery.
“I was shocked to begin with when I about the side the [boot] and saw the skull and antlers,” McElroy told BelfastLive. [Gallery: The world’s Biggest Beasts]
The irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus) extinct for more than 10,000 years, and were one of the largest deer ever to roam the Earth, according to the University of California Museum of Paleontology. The name of the Irish elk is a bit of a misnomer on both parts in that they are technically deer, and were found well outside of Ireland — they were present in Europe, northern Asia, and north Africa. Still, the remains of these large animals are found in the swamps and lakes of Ireland more than other parts of the world.
In recent years, the lakebed of Lough Neagh have shown that a relatively abundant spot for the skeleton remains of the extinct giant deer. In 1987, a fisherman named Felix Conlon netted a set of antlers attached to a skull which he gave to a local school, Grimes told Live Science. Then in 2014, another angler, Martin Kelly, found a lower jaw of an Irish elk estimated to be at least 14,000 years, by Kenneth James, curator of the Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The deer lived in Ireland when the weather was suitable on the grass plains, but in later years, woods began to grow, Mike Simms, a paleontologist at the Ulster Museum, told BelfastLive. Unfortunately for the big beasts, “giant antlers are not large, in the forest,” Simms said. “Changes in the environment is the cause of their demise.”
McElroy found the huge skull and antlers in the same area of the lake, where Kelly found the bottom jawbone, and McElroy suspected the bones came from the same person, BelfastLive reported.
For the moment, McElroy has the antlers is stored in his garage for safekeeping until the local authorities decide where the antlers’ permanent home will be.
Original article on Live Science.