Parque Natural Mexiquillo


Ashfall Fossil Beds

I took a side trip to view these amazing fossil beds. I have read about them for years and now I finally get to see them. Twelve million years ago a menagerie of animals were drinking at the local water hole when the ash began to fall. The birds and turtles died first, followed by the mid size animals and finally the large rhinoceroses. The ash had been ejected into the atmosphere by the Yellowstone Hotspot.

How it may have looked 12 million years ago

The yellow flag marks the site of the first baby rhinoceros fossil spotted eroding out of a creek bank in 1971. The red flags mark the perimeter of the productive dig site. In the foreground are unproductive test trenches.

Large land turtles like this, some weighing 500 pounds or more, are common fossils in Nebraska. Most are not as complete as this one.

In 2009 a new 18,000 square foot barn replaced a smaller barn to protect the fossils from weather and scavengers. 

It is estimated that it will take 15 to 20 to excavate to the far end of the barn.

The Barrel-Bodied Rhinos are the most abundant large animal exposed during this dig. They may have formed large herds with dominate males commanding harems. 

The long, slender legs of this three-toed horse show that it was a fast runner. The large functional "side hooves" (on on each side of the main hoof) suggest that it was a good dodger as well and perhaps was better at dealing with soft, treacherous grind than the single-toed horses.

The bizarre "horned rodent's" huge claws and small eye sockets suggest that they spent most of their time digging underground burrows and eating plant roots. This evolutionary line died out 5 million years ago

These are only a few of the many interesting animals being recovered here. There are camels, elephants, "bear dog", many bird species and a 200 lb beaver

A wonderful day

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