+
Most Shared

This boy tripped and fell over a fossil. Now this professor wants to display it.

What's the best thing you've ever found on a hike? I can almost certainly guarantee that Jude Sparks has got you beat.

Jude Sparks and his amazing find. Is it uncouth to be a little jealous? Photo via Peter Houde.

In November 2016, then-9-year-old Jude Sparks was hiking with his parents and younger brothers in the desert outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. The kids had walkie-talkies and as Jude dashed away to hide from his younger brothers, he tripped and fell, plowing nearly face first into a weird looking rock.


The rock was mottled, shiny, and dark. It looked like fossilized wood, he told The New York Times. On second glance, though, he realized it wasn't wood. It was teeth.

An entire jawbone, in fact, nearly as large as Sparks himself, was half-buried in the dry, desert soil.

Sparks had stumbled across something amazing — the fossil of a gigantic ancient creature.

At first they didn't know what they were looking at. Sparks' younger brother Hunter thought it was a cow skull. His parents suspected elephant. They snapped a quick cell phone picture and, when they got home, got in touch with New Mexico State University biology professor Peter Houde.

Houde immediately recognized the bizarre jaw as part of a stegomastodon — an ancient elephant cousin and a part of a truly amazing group of animals.

The rock Sparks had tripped on was actually the tip of the elephantine creature's tusk.

[rebelmouse-image 19529496 dam="1" original_size="750x429" caption="A reconstruction of what the animal might have looked like. Image by Margret Flinsch/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]A reconstruction of what the animal might have looked like. Image by Margret Flinsch/Wikimedia Commons.

Stegomastodons were not elephants, though they did look like them. They're not a type of mammoth either. Instead, they're what's known as a gomphothere, an offshoot of the elephant family tree.

The skull Sparks found was about 1.2 million years old, though other gomphotheres are known to have lived quite recently. The first people to visit North America might have even sunk their teeth into roast gomphothere steaks.

Jude's discovery turned up one of New Mexico's most complete stegomastodons ever.

Professor Houde enlisted about a dozen students to excavate the creature and bring it back to the college for examination, preservation, and hopefully, display.

"I have every hope and expectation that this specimen will ultimately end up on exhibit and this little boy will be able to show his friends and even his own children, 'look what I found right here in Las Cruces,'" said Houde in a press release. They also found the rest of the creature's skull nearby.

Professor Houde shows off the tusk and lower jaw of Sparks' find. Photo by NMSU/Andres Leighton.

Houde said Sparks' timing was critical to their find. Recent rains had washed out the soil around the fossil, letting the top of the jawbone peek out like a hidden treasure. (If you're looking for fossils yourself, after a storm is a good time to go exploring.)

Just as Sparks literally tripped over a a scientific discovery, amateurs and accidents contribute to science all the time.

Discoveries don't just happen at multimillion-dollar laboratories. They're often the result of just a keen eye and curious mind. Velcro, penicillin, and microwaves were all happy accidents.

Of course, it was good that Sparks left the actual excavation up to professionals. Fossils can be surprisingly fragile. Plus, the skull was technically on private land, so the university had to work out permit rights before digging.

It just goes to show, though, if you keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll find right under your feet.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

How do blind people cook? This "Masterchef" winner leans into her senses.

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Christine Ha competes on "Masterchef."

This article originally appeared on 05.26.17


There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it's got nothing to do with being a "Masterchef" champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: "How do you cook while blind?"

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Two couples move in together with their kids to create one big, loving 'polyfamory'

They are using their unique family arrangement to help people better understand polyamory.

The Hartless and Rodgers families post together


Polyamory, a lifestyle where people have multiple romantic or sexual partners, is more prevalent in America than most people think. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, one in nine Americans have been in a polyamorous relationship, and one in six say they would like to try one.

However popular the idea is, polyamory is misunderstood by a large swath of the public and is often seen as deviant. However, those who practice it view polyamory as a healthy lifestyle with several benefits.

Taya Hartless, 28, and Alysia Rogers, 34, along with their husbands Sean, 46, and Tyler, 35, are in a polyamorous relationship and have no problem sharing their lifestyle with the public on social media. Even though they risk stigmatization for being open about their non-traditional relationships, they are sharing it with the world to make it a safer place for “poly” folks like themselves.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gordon Ramsay at play... work.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.15


Gordon Ramsay is not exactly known for being nice.

Or patient.

Or nurturing.

On his competition show "Hell's Kitchen," he belittles cooks who can't keep up. If people come to him with their problems, he berates them. If someone is struggling to get something right in the kitchen, he curses them out.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.27.20


From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.16


Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

Keep ReadingShow less