Depression-Era Workers Found Strange Fossilized Beasts in 'Texas Serengeti'

An illustration revealing the ancient animals– such as elephant-like gomphotheres, rhinos, horses and antelopes with slingshot-shaped horns– that lived near what is now Beeville, Texas, about 12 million years back.

Credit: Jay Matternes/The Smithsonian Organization

About 12 million years back, antelopes with slingshot-like horns and monsters that weren’t rather elephants however that had long trunks and tusks tramped throughout the “Texas Serengeti” looking for food and taking care of their infants.

Little was learnt about this ancient menagerie up until, throughout the Great Anxiety, the federal government produced the Functions Development Administration (WPA) and entrusted a few of the company’s staff members with finding and maintaining countless fossils from the Miocene, a date that lasted from about 23 million to 5 million years back.

Now, after more than 80 years in storage at The University of Texas at Austin, these fossils are lastly being studied. The fossils have actually even exposed a formerly unidentified genus of gomphothere, an extinct elephant relative with a shovel-like lower jaw, and the earliest fossils on record of both the American alligator and an extinct pet dog relative. [Photos: These Animals Used to Be Giant]

These fossils, gathered from 1939 to 1941, are an outright bonanza, researchers stated. In the almost 4,000 specimens, discovered at dig websites near Beeville, a city about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio, there are 50 types of fossil vertebrates (animals with foundations), consisting of 5 types of fish, 7 reptiles, 2 birds and 36 mammals.

During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration paid folks to collect and preserve fossils in Texas. Here, Glen Evans (left), who managed much of this WPA project, is shown carrying a fossil in a field jacket with a worker.

Throughout the Great Anxiety, the Functions Development Administration paid folks to gather and maintain fossils in Texas. Here, Glen Evans (left), who handled much of this WPA task, is revealed bring a fossil in a field coat with an employee.

Credit: The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences

The choice of animals is mind-blowing, exposing that rhinos, camels, rodents, 12 kinds of horses and 5 types of predators travelled throughout what is now the Texas Gulf Coast some 11 million to 12 million years back.

” It’s the most representative collection of life from this time duration of Earth history along the Texas seaside plain,” research study scientist Steven May, a research study partner at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, stated in a declaration

The skull of a shovel-jawed gomphothere (bottom), collected by Great Depression-era fossil hunters, is still wrapped in its field jacket, along with other skulls from ancient elephant relatives.

The skull of a shovel-jawed gomphothere (bottom), gathered by Great Depression-era fossil hunters, is still covered in its field coat, together with other skulls from ancient elephant loved ones.

Credit: The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences

Though others have actually analyzed particular fossils in this collection, May’s deep dive into the whole selection is assisting to fill spaces in the state’s record of ancient wildlife, Matthew Brown, the director of the museum’s vertebrate paleontology collections, stated in the declaration.

May likewise went back to the initial dig websites to see what smaller sized fossils, such as rodent teeth, he might excavate, because the gathered discovers consisted mainly of huge, “apparent” fossils, he stated. There are a lot of fossils from the WPA age that the task will likely continue for many years. In addition, scientists prepare to do isotope analyses of the fossils. (Isotopes are various variations of a component that have various varieties of neutrons in the nucleus.) This will assist researchers assess the diet plans and paleoenvironments of a few of the ancient animals, May composed in the research study, which was released online the other day (April 11) in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica

Initially released on Live Science