Gainesville, Florida. Fossil hunters in Florida are making incredible finds, including prehistoric creatures like rhinos, mammoths, and sabretooth cats.
Florida is one of the richest states when it comes to paleontology, and new discoveries are being made every day.
University of Florida researchers recently discovered the incredibly untouched remains of a giant gomphothere, a close relative of the four 10,000-pound tusks of an elephant that prowled the area before humans.
The discovery was made on a piece of private property about 45 minutes southwest of Gainesville, at a site known as Montbrook.
For seven years now, paleontologists, UF students, and hundreds of volunteers have been excavating the site by hand.
“It’s an incredibly special place,” said Dr. Jonathan Bloch, a professor of paleontology at the University of Florida who directs Bloch’s lab. “We have the skull of a relative of the giant elephant whose lower jaw is articulated with its upper jaw.”
The discovery was made after 5-year-old Timber found some bones while walking with her mother and grandmother on the family’s land. They handed the bones over to UF, and Bloch and his team began studying them.
“I told Jonathan (Bloch) you’d take care of it and whatever he says goes,” said Eddie Hodge, the landowner. “I just send people to it. I’m happy to be a part of it. My whole family.”
At the same site, the researchers found bones of sabre-toothed cats, rhinos, lynxes, crocodiles, turtles, and fish.
The samples are kept in the laboratory at UF’s Dickinson Hall, where volunteers use screwdrivers and dental tools to carefully clean them.
“If you want to be a fossil preparator, or if you think sitting on your front lawn and mowing the lawn with a pair of toenail clippers sounds perfectly reasonable, you’ve got the right mindset,” said volunteer Ken Marks. “Nothing here happens fast.”
Moonbrook’s largest gomphothere fossils will soon need a crane and truck to bring them back to the university. Each step puts together a never-before-seen puzzle.
“This looks like a part of a pelvis, but there are a lot of bones lumped together,” Bloch said, looking at the partially unearthed remains of a gomphothere. “The big mystery was, where is his head? That’s what we really wanted to know.”
Some of the best specimens are on display at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Florida Fossils on the UF campus. There, guests can see other giant creatures that roamed or swam in Florida. These include megalodon sharks, giant ground sloths, and terror birds.
However, there are no records of actual dinosaurs roaming Florida. The researchers said that Florida was under water during the time that dinosaurs were on Earth.
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