Boy trips over 1 million-year-old fossil, making rare discovery

Boy trips over 1 million-year-old fossil, making rare discovery

Jude told the New York Times that the discovery reignited his interest in fossils, a passion which was initially sparked at five years old.

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

News reports say what Jude Sparks found that day was the fossilised skull of a 1.2 million-year-old stegomastodon, a long-extinct distant cousin of ancient mammoths and current-day elephants.

"I immediately recognized the importance of what it was".

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.

Houde went to check out the find for himself, and was pleasantly surprised. The recent discoveries are late-comers that were not ancestral to anything.

Houde told the Post that he receives emails from a few people each year wondering whether or not they had made an important discovery, and in most cases, the photos they send turn out to be nothing special - but that wasn't the case here. "Their legs might be a bit stubbier, but the main difference from elephants is in their molar teeth, reflecting a diet more based on browsing than that of modern elephants". "This is really very unusual to find", said Houde.

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However, though Houde is continuing to study and preserve the fossil, he believes it will be available for public viewing at New Mexico State University's Vertebrate Museum.

After several months, Houde and his team finally got permission from the landowner to dig on the property - under the condition the site remain a secret, according to a university news release.

Their research didn't turn up a clear answer, so they turned to Houde, who identified it as part of a stegomastodon skull. "If they had not done that, if they had tried to do it themselves, it could have just destroyed the specimen".

"A stegomastodon would look to any of us like an elephant", Houde said in a statement. "I'm waiting for our geologists to return from summer field schools to look into it". But they're still very rare.

Michelle said that the structure of Jude's homeschooling program is part of a co-op that will allow him to share his exploits with his peers who have already been calling wanting to know about the bone.

"I'm not really an expert, but I know a lot about it, I guess", he said, explaining that he had learned about the yearslong process by which fossils are sometimes preserved or strengthened.