Depression-era workers found strange fossilized beasts in ‘Texas Serengeti’

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About 12 million years in the past, antelopes with slingshot-like horns and beasts that weren’t fairly elephants however that had lengthy trunks and tusks tramped throughout the “Texas Serengeti” trying to find meals and caring for his or her infants.

Little was recognized about this historical menagerie till, throughout the Nice Despair, the federal government created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and tasked among the group’s staff with discovering and preserving hundreds of fossils from the Miocene, an epoch that lasted from about 23 million to five million years in the past.

Now, after greater than 80 years in storage at The College of Texas at Austin, these fossils are lastly being studied. The fossils have even revealed a beforehand unknown genus of gomphothere, an extinct elephant relative with a shovel-like decrease jaw, and the oldest fossils on report of each the American alligator and an extinct canine relative. [Photos: These Animals Used to Be Giant]

These fossils, collected from 1939 to 1941, are an absolute treasure trove, scientists mentioned. Within the almost four,000 specimens, discovered at dig websites close to Beeville, a metropolis about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio, there are 50 species of fossil vertebrates (animals with backbones), together with 5 species of fish, seven reptiles, two birds and 36 mammals.

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The choice of animals is mind-boggling, revealing that rhinos, camels, rodents, 12 sorts of horses and 5 species of carnivores trekked throughout what’s now the Texas Gulf Coast some 11 million to 12 million years in the past.

“It is essentially the most consultant assortment of life from this time interval of Earth historical past alongside the Texas coastal plain,” research researcher Steven Might, a analysis affiliate at The College of Texas at Austin’s Jackson College of Geosciences, mentioned in an announcement.

Although others have examined particular fossils on this assortment, Might’s deep dive into the whole assortment helps to fill gaps within the state’s report of historical wildlife, Matthew Brown, the director of the museum’s vertebrate paleontology collections, mentioned within the assertion.

Might also returned to the unique dig websites to see what smaller fossils, similar to rodent enamel, he might excavate, for the reason that collected finds consisted largely of massive, “apparent” fossils, he mentioned. There are such a lot of fossils from the WPA period that the challenge will doubtless proceed for years. As well as, researchers plan to do isotope analyses of the fossils. (Isotopes are completely different variations of a component which have completely different numbers of neutrons within the nucleus.) It will assist scientists consider the diets and paleoenvironments of among the historical animals, Might wrote within the research, which was revealed on-line yesterday (April 11) within the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.

Initially revealed on Reside Science.

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