Jude Sparks, who was then 9 years old, tripped over what he thought was a ‘rotten cow’ remains in the desert near Las Cruces, New Mexico.
When he got up he saw what appeared to be two extremely large teeth protruding from the ground along with what appeared to be a tusk.
He told his parents what he had found and they immediately went to photograph the found remains. They went online to search for an expert that might help them find out what it really is and stumbled upon Peter Houde, a biology professor at New Mexico State University. Houde emailed them as soon as he saw the photographs as he immediately knew what it was.
Houde said: “They sent me a picture on a Friday night. I mean, it was 100 percent immediately obvious that they’d either found a skull or a jaw. I could see teeth. I wrote right back to them, I said let’s go out there right away.”
As it turns out, he was right. The boy discovered a fossilized skull that once belonged to a Stegomastodon, which is now 1 million years old fossil. This humongous animal is a relative of today’s elephant which had two huge husks that were almost nine feet tall.
This discovery is not something that is common as the animal’s bones are very delicate and in this case, they were exposed to the surface making them even more sensitive to decay. Houde explained that if the boy’s family went to dig up the fossil on their own it would probably be completely destroyed by now seeing that the excavation process should be done very carefully and in stages.
A couple of months after the discovery, Houde and the research team he works with got a permission to dig up the fossil from the owner of the land on which the fossil was found, but the excavation site needed to remain a secret for it to happen.
The scientists are working on preserving the fossil and studying it in the hopes that soon it would be displayed at the New Mexico State University’s Vertebrate Museum where the public can view it.