According to a new press release from the New Mexico State University, a full stegomastodon skull was unearthed in New Mexico thanks to a more than chance discovery. It was detected after a then nine years old boy tripped on a part of it and fell.
After being unable to determine what the strange obstacle was, the boy and his family eventually contacted a specialist, who realized the significance of their discovery.
This is the Second Complete Stegomastodon Skull Ever Discovered in New Mexico
The Sparks family was hiking in Las Cruces, New Mexico back in November 2016, when Jude, their nine-year-old boy, tripped and fell because of a strange obstacle. Being unable to determine what this was, the Sparks took photos and did some research on their own.
This led them to contact Peter Houde, of the New Mexico State University (NMSU). According to reports, immediately recognized that this was a stegomastodon fossil. Not only that, it was a complete skull, reportedly one of the only two ever discovered in the state.
The fossilized skull is considered to be some 1.2 million old and took a week to extract. Houde estimates that the fossil, on the whole, could weigh about a ton. Its jaw alone was calculated to be around 250 pounds. Although heavy, the stegomastodon skull is delicate.
“The upper part of the skull is deceiving. It’s mostly hollow and the surface of the skull is eggshell thin,” states Houde.
He goes to explain that, had this air not been there to lighten it, the skull would have been very heavy to carry. It is one of the reasons why the extraction process took as long as a week.
After being unearthed, a research team from NMSU coated it with plaster and further protected it by supporting the skull with wood braces.
Now, scientists will be taking a closer look at the fossil and will also begin its reconstruction process. This is expected to take a few years. A specialists team will be working on the tusks, jaws, and skull itself.
The stegomastodon lived during the Pleistocene and is a relative of modern-day elephants, despite its dinosaur-resembling name.
Nonetheless, Houde is hoping and expecting that once completed, the stegomastodon skull will go on display for everyone to see.
Image Source: Flickr