(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) — A piece of history has been found thanks to a boy stumbling upon a rare, 1.2 million-year-old animal fossil.
In November 2016, Jude Sparks, now 10, was on an outing with his family near their New Mexico home when he tripped over what he thought was a cow skull.
Now, researchers at New Mexico State University are preserving the discovery, which was identified as a Stegomastodon — a mastodon-like or elephant-like animal.
“I imagined through my own mind of being 9 years old and finding something like that and how incredible it would be,” dad Kyle Sparks. “Like most kids, he had this really strong phase, maybe 5 or 6 years old, where he’d be reading every dinosaur and fossil book you can imagine. He’s ecstatic about it.”
Sparks, a father of three, said he left what to do with the fossil up to Jude, who decided he wanted to call an expert.
Sparks reached to Peter Houde, a professor at New Mexico State University, who had experience with the same type of fossil in the past.
The next day, Houde came out to see the remains for himself.
“I was real excited,” Houde told ABC News. “I really like to encourage people to be aware. It was really fortuitous that this particular family did what they did. Had they tried to dig up something themselves, it really takes a great deal of technical know-how without destroying the specimen in the process. They were really responsible to try to get in touch with somebody.
“It is great for the community because now everybody can appreciate it,” he added.
Houde said the university was granted permission from the landowner where the fossil was found to perform an extrication in late May.
Prior, Houde confirmed the fossil to be that of a Stegomastodon.
Houde extricated the remains of the species with his fellow faculty members and a geologist.
Houde said one of the tusks is missing from the animal, suggesting that there could be more skeleton near the site where Jude found the skull. He hopes to return to the site with geologists for an additional search, he added.
Jude and his family have been invited to visit the fossil as researchers preserve it at the university, his father said.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.