Boy Face-Plants Right Onto a Million-Year-Old Stegomastodon Skull

Man holding tusk next to jawbone of stegomastodon

Jude Sparks was walking with his family in Las Cruces, N.M. when he tripped over the fossilized tusk of a long-extinct Stegomastodon.

Jude said he and his brothers were checking their hand-held radios when he tripped on something.

Houde praised the family's response in reaching out to him, and encouraged others who were fortunate enough to make such a discovery, to approach an expert as fossils found in similar areas are "radioactive".

"I immediately recognised the importance of what it was", Houde told the news station.

The young boy came to a stop when he tripped in the Las Cruces wilderness in New Mexico last November, only to find out that he fell on a rare stegomastodon skull. He found a skull of an animal dating back to the Ice Age on his fall.

The family called a professor at New Mexico State University, Dr. Peter Houde, who confirmed it was 1.2 million years old. The recent discoveries are late-comers that were not ancestral to anything.

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"As you can imagine, when people find out about these things, they might be tempted to go out there and see what they might find themselves and tear up the land or they might hurt themselves", Houde said in the same statement.

The fossil is now being kept at the university's Vertebrate Museum for further study. Peltier assisted Houde in the preservation of the fossil by using a chemical sealer to protect the fossil from the sun. "They just decay into tiny little bits".

"The skull that we found is one of the very best to have been found in New Mexico", Houde said. The exposure through the dirt did a little damage to a tusk, but nothing that can't fix. After months of arranging a team, getting money and securing a permit, the skull was finally excavated in May. Kyle said the university requested they did not release any information until all of the pieces were in place which wasn't until just recently. "It didn't match perfectly with elephants, so then we said, ok, I guess it was something else".

This discovery is not something that is common as the animal's bones are very delicate and in this case, they were exposed to the surface making them even more sensitive to decay. He said he and Houde chose to cover the specimen with dirt until approval could be obtained.

Lucas said that fossils such as those belonging to mammoths are relatively abundant in some areas of North America, but for some unknown reason, stegomastodons are rare to find.

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