US cave explored for now-extinct animals' bones (Update)
August 7, 2014
by Mead Gruver
Paleontologists are completing their first excavation in 30 years inside an unusual U.S. cave thought to hold the remains of tens of thousands of ancient animals that fell to their deaths.
Bones they've found in the Wyoming cave could include those of North American lions, short-faced bears and other now-extinct species from 25,000 years ago.
The cave's only entrance is a hole in the ground that's almost impossible to see until you're next to it. Scientists say over millennia, thousands of unwary animals plummeted 80 feet (24 meters) to their deaths. A metal grate now prevents people and animals from falling in.
"They're very excited about the potential for what they've found," Brent Breithaupt, who was among the exclusive group of scientists who recently rappelled down to excavate the floor of Natural Trap Cave, said Wednesday.
The bones lie entombed, layer upon layer, in sediment as much as 30 feet deep.
Scientists hope the cave's high humidity and cool temperatures might even preserve genetic material of extinct animals from the days when massive ice sheets last frosted over much of the North American landscape.
The oldest remains could date back 100,000 years, Breithaupt said.
Over the past two weeks, bucket after bucket, the experts have been hauling up bones and bone-bearing sediment.
The best items are being shipped to universities in the U.S. and even overseas, to the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, Breithaupt said.
"It's an incredible site. It definitely is one of the most significant sites that BLM manages and it will provide very, very important information," said Breithaupt, a paleontologist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Rather than being gentle giants, new research reveals that Pleistocene cave bears, a species which became extinct 20,000 years ago, ate both plants and animals and competed for food with the other contemporary large carnivores ...
An assortment of saber-toothed cats, hyenas, an extinct 'bear-dog', ancestors of the red panda and several other carnivores died under unusual circumstances in a Spanish cave near Madrid approximately 9-10 million years ago. ...
(Phys.org) —A trio of archeologists has found that a human femur unearthed in a cave in the early 1990s, in northern Britain dates back to over 10,000 years ago. The combined team of researchers from the University of Nottingham ...
(AP)—For the first time in three decades, paleontologists are about to revisit one of North America's most remarkable troves of ancient fossils: The bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at the bottom of a sinkhole-type ...
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered the deepest cave in Israel. Located near Israel's border with Lebanon, the cave was recently mapped by researchers from the Cave Research Unit in the Hebrew ...
Among the many things that science is, it is a system of categorization. The human fossil record—file under genus, Homo; species, sapiens—is rather poorly categorized, contends the University of Pittsburgh's Jeffrey Schwartz, ...
Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...
Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...
Please sign in to add a comment.
Registration is free, and takes less than a minute.
Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.