It was supposed to be just an ordinary walk for 9-year-old Jude Sparks and his family in Las Cruces, N.M., when the boy tripped over and fell – only to find himself face to face with a strange object that looked like a massive jaw.


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“It was just an odd shape,” Jude, now 10, said in a phone interview for the New York Times on Tuesday. “I just knew it was not something that you usually find.”

That’s when the boy’s parents, Michelle and Kyle Sparks, stepped in. They took a photo of the object and decided to do a little bit of research.

The Sparks sent the picture to , Peter Houde, a biology professor at a nearby New Mexico State University. “I immediately recognized from the photo… that they had found either the skull or jaw of a gomphothere, a group of elephant-like animals from which elephants evolved,” Houde told Bored Panda.

The fossil belonged to a long-extinct Stegomastodon – and the boy tripped over its fossilized tusk. It is estimated that the creature lived at least 1.2 million years ago.

“We’re really, really grateful that they contacted us, because if they had not done that, if they had tried to do it themselves, it could have just destroyed the specimen,” he said.

(h/t: nytimes)

It was supposed to be just an ordinary walk for 9-year-old Jude Sparks and his family in Las Cruces…

Image credits: NMSU

Then the boy tripped over and fell – only to find himself facing some massive jaw

Image credits: NMSU

“It was just an odd shape… I just knew it was not something that you usually find”

Image credits: NMSU

The boy’s parents took a picture of it and sent it to a Biology professor from a local university

Image credits: NMSU

It belongs to Stegomastodon, an elephant-like creature that lived 1.2 million years ago

Image credits: NMSU

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