In a chance discovery in the deserts of New Mexico, two young boys out for a hike in the wilderness were using their walkie-talkies, when one of the brothers stumbled over a strange formation.
It looked to them like the piece of a cool skull. One of them believed it was “just a big, fat rotten cow”, while young Jude Sparks was sure he saw a tusk. Well, their parents took some photos and contacted an expert at New Mexico State University. It appears the boys found a rare fossil over 1 million years old, and a paleontology team is already on site.
Rare Fossil Turns out to Be Stegomastodon
The boys’ parents emailed biology Professor Peter Hourde, who gets several inquiries per month about potential fossils in the desert. Most of them turn out to be just rocks.
“They sent me a picture on a Friday night. I mean, it was 100 percent immediately obvious that they’d either found a skull or a jaw. I could see teeth,” Houde stated. “I wrote right back to them; I said let’s go out there right away.”
When they arrived, they found out that Jude had been far more correct in his scientific assessment. The jaw and skull are that of a 1 million years old stegomastodon, a relative of the modern elephant and the wooly mammoth. This rare fossil was difficult to find, because its bones are extremely fragile, despite the massiveness of the beast.
Houde added that the Sparks were actually “very responsible” for trying to get in contact with him. He points out that others might have wanted to keep the fossil for themselves.
That’s because the technique is intense to remove such delicate fossils, mostly due to their massive size. They can deteriorate immediately once they leave their supporting medium. The team continues to examine the site to make the most of this chance discovery.
Image Source: Wikimedia