9-Year-Old Kid Trips And Falls Into Major Fossil Find

Boy in red shirt with jawbone in the sand

"I'm not really an expert, but I know a lot about it, I guess".

As the New York Times notes, "The Stegomastodon was an elephantine creature - not a mastodon, but similar in appearance - whose existence was relatively recent".

For this reason, Houde warns against fossil discoverers to attempt any amateur excavation of their finds themselves, as they may end up with little more than a few handfuls of dust.

The family contacted New Mexico State University professor Peter Houde, and he and a team from the university spent a week digging up the skull in May after getting permission from the landowner.

"I immediately recognised the importance of what it was", Houde told the news station. "So we were very excited, but we did not know how much was there", the biologist explained.

It turned out Jude's instincts were correct.

As it turned out, the skull was actually a million-year-old fossilized skull of a Stegomastodon, a now-extinct ancient relative of elephants described as having two enormous tusks that curved upwards and stood almost nine feet tall. It was part of a Stegomastodon, specifically the extinct species' tusk. "It's mostly hollow, and the surface of the skull is eggshell thin. This may be only the second complete skull found in New Mexico". "It really has to be done with great care and know-how".

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In May, the Sparks family, along with a team of a dozen NMSU students and professors, excavated the skull within the space of a week, after securing funding and chemicals to preserve the finding. After a week on site, the scientists were able to dig out the fossil. "The first thing we wanted to do was determine if the piece of tusk that was showing was actually connected to a skull".

It was found in Las Cruces, New Mexico right on the outskirts of Jude Sparks' neighborhood.

Once Jude told his brother he found something, his brother said it was probably a "big fat rotten cow", as he later recalled to El Paso ABC affiliate KVIA.

Fossils of these animals exist especially in the southern United States, down through Central America, and in some cases into South America, but they are pretty universally represented by very scrappy bits of bone, teeth or tusks.

Peter Houde, of New Mexico State University, stands with the tusk from a Stegomastodon. The New Mexico Natural History Museum collected the remains.

In 2015, a then 4-year-old Wylie Brys happened upon the fossilised bones of a nodosaur while exploring land behind a Dallas-area shopping centre.

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