The stumble of a child has allowed to make an outstanding paleontological discovery. The finding was casual and occurred when the little Jude Sparks was playing last November with his brothers in Las Cruces, New Mexico (United States). As he ran, he collided with part of a fang.
The family got in touch with the State University of New Mexico and it was then when they found out that there was buried an almost intact skull of a stegomasatodon, an extinct genus of mammal. It is more than one million years old.
“I was running and I stumbled on part of the tusk,” explained Jude Sparks, according to the State University of New Mexico on its website. The boy, who is now 10 years old, was playing with his parents and trying walkie-talkies with his brothers when he fell and ran into the fossil. “My face ended up next to my lower jaw, I looked up and there was another fang there,” he said.
The Sparks family got in touch with the biology professor Peter Houde after having seen on YouTube an interview with him about a similar fossil. “A stegomastodon would look like an elephant to any of us,” says Houde, according to the university’s website. “Depending on the different types of elephants we have in this area, this is probably the most common of them, but they are still very rare, this may be the second complete skull found in New Mexico,” he says.
“I knew that was not something that is usually found,” Jude Sparks told The New York Times. “It is something really very unusual,” Professor Houde confirms to the same newspaper, in which he explains that the prehistoric remains are so fragile that they usually disintegrate if they are exposed to the erosion of the elements.
When the teacher and the family visited the remains a day after the discovery, they made sure to bury them again. After months in which they had to get permits, prepare a team and raise the necessary funding, the excavation ended last May.