Natural trap in Wyoming yields important ancient animal remains

This is so exciting! Animal misfortune 20,000 years ago is a scientific bonanza today.

Treasure trove of prehistoric animal remains discovered – CNN.com.

Scientists descended into a deep cave, hoping to find Ice Age mammals’ remains. What they found stunned them: the remains of hundreds of big prehistoric mammals.

The treasure trove was discovered in the Natural Trap Cave at the base of Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming.

Researchers believe these ancient animals may have fallen into what was then a sinkhole-like pit.

The Natural Trap Cave is on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Even though it was discovered by paleontologists back in the 1970s, this was the first time in decades scientists had rapelled into the 85′ hole for a new excavation. The cave conditions have preserved remains even so far as the collegen in the bones that may contain DNA.

Fossils include mammoths, short-faced bears, collared lemmings, and camels. Yes! There were CAMELS (Camelops) in North America. Scientists think there also are remains of prehistoric big cats of North America – cheetahs (Miracinonyx) and even lions (Panthera leo atrox). All these animals existed in the western US during the Pleistocene epoch or Ice Age which spanned from 2.5 million years ago to about 11,000 years ago). These large animals, called megafauna, died out in an extinction event at that time.

Natural Trap Cave is a 15ft wide opening to an 85 ft drop. The cave is 20,000 years old and the animals may have fallen in or tried to seek shelter there (as cave lions presumable did). No human (or Bigfoot) remains have been found in the cave though if a person DID fall in, they would not be able to get out without technology of a modern rescue.

The bone samples will be analysed at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, Adelaide headed by Professor Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide. In this video, he discusses his work.


Tip: Joy Harris

Excavations taking place in Natural Trap Cave Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Excavations taking place in Natural Trap Cave Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Typical animals of Pleistocene North America

Typical animals of Pleistocene North America

  5 comments for “Natural trap in Wyoming yields important ancient animal remains

  1. Sari
    August 9, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    SO COOL. Thanks for posting!!

  2. August 10, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    If you wish to see the best preserved remains of American animals of this era, they are in central LA at the Page Museum just off Wilshire Boulevard. This is right next door to the tar pits where they were found.

  3. BNill T.
    August 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    People get paid to do this. They’re not going to get wealthy, but they do get paid. Ask just how jealous I am. It would be no surprise to learn that some to all of this investigation is volunteer.

  4. Grackle
    August 14, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    This was pretty much my exact reaction!

  5. Artor
    August 15, 2014 at 1:44 AM

    Yeah, interns are modern slaves pretty much. They get paid in the possibility of a line on their future resume.

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