A 9-year-old boy hiking in the Las Cruces desert in New Mexico recently tripped over what is now thought to be a 1.2-million-year-old Stegomastodon skull.
“I was running farther up, and I tripped on part of the tusk,” Jude Sparks, now 10, who was hiking in the desert with his parents and brothers, said in a statement from New Mexico State University (NMSU). “My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I looked farther up, and there was another tusk.”
A prehistoric ancestor of mammoths and elephants, Stegomastodon belongs to the scientific family Gomphotheriidae. While many gomphotheres sported four tusks — an upper pair that curved downward and outward, and a lower pair that were sort of spatula-shaped — Stegomastodon had just two upward-curving tusks, sometimes called chin tusks, that grew downward from the upper jaw.