For the first time in decades, scientists are excavating fossils from an 80-foot-deep cave in North Central Wyoming.
The cave is called “Natural Trap Cave,” because it’s become the final resting place for countless animals in past centuries—including many now-extinct ones like mammoths, short-faced bears, and American lions.
Julie Meachen is a paleontologist at Des Moines University. She’ll rappel into the cave with a team of 15 others.
In 1986, a large mammoth rib bone was found jutting out of the bank of a creek a few miles from Douglas. The state archaeologist, Dr. George Frison, did a hasty 4-day excavation at the time. But a thorough excavation has never been done because the land owners weren’t interested in hosting an archaeology dig on their property. That left archaeologists with a big question--was LaPrele Creek a mammoth kill site? But recently the land sold and archaeologists have finally been allowed to dig.
A paleontology field school in the Bighorn Basin found an incredibly well-preserved fossil of an ancient anteater-like mammal this summer. The fossil is a Palaeanodon, a ground-dwelling insect eater the size of a cat that lived about 53-million years ago. Colorado State University Field School Instructor Kim Nichols discovered the skeleton and says the fossil is a very rare find because so much of the animal’s skeleton was found. Such small creatures are hardly ever discovered intact. Its excellent condition is also unusual, Nichols says.