Boy trips and lands on a scientific discovery

posted by Kelly Nash - 

Thanks to 10-year-old Jude Sparks being clumsy, researchers now have a rare fossil from the Pleistocene era. The boy literally fell on the 1.2-million-year-old skull of a stegomastodon - an enormous prehistoric creature with elephant-like tusks - while hiking with his parents near his Las Cruces, New Mexico neighborhood.

"I was running farther up and I tripped on part of the tusk," Sparks says in a statement from New Mexico State University, where researchers are studying the fossil. "My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I looked farther up and there was another tusk."

The Sparks family was there when professor Peter Houde and his students excavated the delicate skull, a process that took a week. Houde says it’s extremely rare to find a nearly intact skull of a mammal from the Ice Age and that it may take years to reconstruct the skull, jaw, and tusks.

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