Hiking is always an exciting activity. You discover a lot of things — about yourself, about nature, and if you’re this young boy, occasionally a 1-million-year-old fossil. The bones were from a Stegomastodon, or prehistoric elephant.
“I was running farther up, and I tripped on part of the tusk,” Jude Sparks, who was hiking in the desert with his parents and brothers, said. “My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I looked farther up, and there was another tusk.”
Talk about sheer coincidence! The family immediately contacted the New Mexico State University, who confirmed that the skull was only one of two complete fossils. The skull measured to weigh nearly a ton.
“I have every hope and expectation that this specimen will ultimately end up on exhibit and this little boy will be able to show his friends, and even his own children, ‘Look what I found right here in Las Cruces,'” [said NMSU professor Peter Houde].
As for the rest of the animal’s remains, there’s a chance they are hiding nearby. “It’s quite possible it was preserved.”
While the skull was held together by surrounding sediment, it’s possible the rest of the skeleton eroded away. Whatever the case, Jude now has an incredible story to tell.