A 10-year-old boy has discovered a million-year-old fossil by tripping over it while hiking in New Mexico with his family.
Local media KVIA reported that Jude Sparks was exploring the region’s Organ Mountains with his parents and two brothers, playing with walkie talkies, when he fell over something sticking out of the earth. They said he fell right on his face and opened his eyes to the remains of an elephant-type creature that was later identified as a million-year-old stegomastodon, an ancestor of modern elephants.
“I was running farther up and I tripped on part of the tusk. My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I look farther up and there was another tusk,” Jude told KVIA. Adding that his brother thought it was a “big fat rotten cow”.
The family did not dig out the fossil themselves, but later visited an expert, Dr. Peter Houde, at New Mexico State University.”I immediately recognized the importance of what it was. We went out there the very next day to have a look at it,” he told KIVA. “We know that these fossils exist here underground. Somebody’s house might be built right on top of them. But they don’t usually survive the erosional process to get to the surface. They just decay into tiny little bits. They are actually very, very fragile.”
KVIA said that the land owner gave permission for the fossil to be dug up, but wished to remain anonymous to protect his land from an influx of fossil hunters.
“The skull that we found is one of the very best to have been found in New Mexico,” said Dr. Houde.
The fossil is now being kept at the university’s Vertebrate Museum for further study.