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Boy Discovered Million Year Old Fossil by Accident

Leslie Tander

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In November 2016, a nine-year old, Jude Sparks, was out for a hike with his family in Las Cruces, New Mexico when he tripped over what first appeared to be a rock or fossilized wood. When he looked closer, the strange-looking obstruction turned out to be the jawbone, half-buried in the desert.  

Paleontologists unearthed partial skeletons in New Mexico more than 20 years ago. Since then, more than 25 different species of dinosaurs have been found, including Alamosaurus, Coelophysis, Edmontosaurus, Iguanodon, and Tyrannosaurus rex. Still every find is important, and Jude’s find was no different. Professor Peter Houde, from New Mexico State University, recognized the fossil as the jaw from a stegomastodon, an ancient cousin of the elephant, although it’s a gomphothere offshoot.  

What Makes the Stegomastodon Special?  

Once Houde unearthed the stegomastodon, he determined that it was one of the most complete skeletons found in New Mexico. It was a type of Pleistocene creature that roamed the Rio Grande Valley. It was once a common species, but it’s now considered to be a rare find.  

Houde transported the stegomastodon jaw and tusk to the NMSU Vertebrate Museum. The entire skull was excavated in May 2017, and the process of reconstructing the fossil is still underway. Once the fossil skeleton is fully reassembled, Houde wants to put the 1.2 million-year old stegomastodon skull on display.  

Beyond the rarity of the fossil find, it’s also an inspiration for both Jude and for all the others who were once passionate about fossils and dinosaurs. It just shows that pieces of prehistoric history are waiting to be discovered just below the surface. For those who find fossils in the desert sand, it’s also a reminder to contact an expert to find out more about them and bring them into the light of day.  

What’s Next? 

The stegomastodon discovery was not the first nor the last fossil to be discovered in New Mexico. Bob Chesbrough and his kids found a crocodile fossil in September 2018, but they’ve found more than a thousand bone fragments in the Ojito Wilderness over the years. Chesbrough worked with Dr. Spencer Lucas, a paleontologist at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, to recover and excavate the fossils.  

Fossils are discovered at sites across the US and around the world. When Jude discovered the fossil, it was a surprise, but it also reawakened his passion for the discovery of prehistoric history. It’s might be reminiscent of a dreamed-of treasure hunt, where instead of gold or gems, it’s possible to stumble upon important fossil finds. 

To some, the discovery of these fossilized remnants are the biggest treasure. These fragments of the past shed light on the creatures, vegetation and landscape, but it’s also a lesson in science and adventuring. The next great fossilized creature may be a stumble away. 

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Life

35 Life Hacks That Will Revolutionize Your Life

Lea Lomas

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Life is all about learning and as we age, boy, do we learn a lot! In order to make the most out of the wisdom we gain from age, we’ve decided to collect 35 of the most clever life hacks on the internet. You can use these simple life hacks for everything from work and travel to getting chores done faster around the house. 

Once you learn these life hacks, you will never want to go back!

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Life

35 Life Hacks That Will Revolutionize Your Life

Sherry Rucherman

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Life is all about learning and as we age, boy, do we learn a lot! In order to make the most out of the wisdom we gain from age, we’ve decided to collect 35 of the most clever life hacks on the internet. You can use these simple life hacks for everything from work and travel to getting chores done faster around the house. 

Once you learn these life hacks, you will never want to go back!

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Animals

A Koala Mother Babysits Three Joeys

Mackenzie Freeman

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The parents who have several young children at home often talk about the challenges that they face. Caring for even one very young child is certainly difficult. Having three kids like this just multiplies all of the associated obstacles. Strangely enough, many animal parents don’t quite seem to have the exact same issues. Then again, it’s possible that koala parents might have some of the same problems. 

Very young children tend to squirm and kick whenever they’re held. Parents who have twins sometimes have a difficult time holding both of the kids at once for that reason. They might get used to it, but it still might pose a lot of challenges physically. These situations are even tougher on the parents who actually have triplets. There are koala mothers who have to care for three joeys at once. A koala mother at the Billabong Zoo was in that situation recently. 

Human parents have certain inherently advantages. The fact that humans are comparatively tall certainly helps. Human infants and toddlers are very small compared to their parents. Many animal parents are not as fortunate, including the koala mother at Australia’s Billabong Zoo.

While these koala joeys are actually capable of climbing trees on their own, they seem to prefer resting on her back. While they’re still smaller than she is, the size difference is actually relatively modest. The mother koala seems to be only around three times the size of each individual joey. Since there are three of them, she seems to be at least somewhat overwhelmed. 

The koala joeys can’t seem to sit still, and all four of them seem as if they’re struggling to get comfortable and stay that way. They aren’t resting peacefully on the mother’s back. Instead, they’re constantly shifting and stepping on her. As this is happening, she’s still trying to hold onto the tree. They almost look as if they’re scratching her at times, which is enough to make anyone feel sorry for the mother koala.

It’s an entertainingly adorable image, but the mother koala still seems to be struggling to keep up with all of these joeys. She’s being remarkably patient, especially when people consider the situation overall. These koala joeys were not actually hers. She was just looking after them.

This sort of thing might surprise a lot of people, since koalas are not especially social animals. In fact, plenty of relatively unsocial animals will care for babies that aren’t theirs. They’ll still have the caregiver instinct, which can be helpful in a zoo environment. 

Koala joeys are actually very strongly connected to their parents emotionally. They spend months in pouches, and aren’t even remotely independent for a full year. It takes them even more time to become truly independent, and they’re still very attached to their parents from that point onward. This koala is not actually their mother, but they have the same sort of bonding instinct that her actual children would have. She’s acting as their mother, and that appears to be good enough for the joeys. 

Even though they could spend time on the tree alone, many of them are not going to want to do so. Koalas are generally very inactive animals. The mother koala in particular just seems to want to rest, and the joeys are not making that easy. Still, as energetic as they are, the joeys still settle down some of the time. 

It almost looks as if all four of them are going to fall any second. Still, all koalas are adapted to this sort of situation, and they’re astonishingly good at staying on trees. 

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