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Elementary School Students Find Rare Prehistoric Sloth Bone While Digging for Crawdads

The ancient fossil is between 11,500 years and 300,000 years old

<p>Tara Redwood School</p> Elementary school students display their found Sloth bone

Tara Redwood School

Elementary school students display their found Sloth bone

A day playing under the California sun became a history-making adventure for a curious group of elementary school students.

On Wednesday, the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History announced that it's now in possession of a prehistoric left arm bone belonging to a Jefferson’s ground sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii) after the students discovered the bone while playing in a creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

“They were building a dam, looking for crawdads," recalled Tara Redwood School teacher Bryn Evans to KSBW. "They're just in the mud pulling things out and then one of them comes up and is like, 'This isn't a stick, this is a bone."

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<p>Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History</p> Wayne Thompson with a student and the Sloth bone

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Wayne Thompson with a student and the Sloth bone

The bone was brought to the museum and examined by Paleontology Collections Advisor Wayne Thompson, who worked with fossil sloth experts to identify its origin.

Apart from being the first reported fossil evidence for the species in Santa Cruz County, it is a discovery that Felicia Van Stolk, the museum’s executive director, says will "inspire generations."

“Fossils are a great way to engage people with the deep past, and we’re so excited students made this important discovery that will continue to inspire generations of museum visitors and scientists," said Van Stolk in a statement.

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<p>Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History</p> The giant Sloth bone

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

The giant Sloth bone

According to the museum, the Jefferson’s ground sloths were "large herbivorous mammals with blunt snouts" that weighed anywhere between 2200 and 2425 lbs. and could grow up to three meters long.

Their name pays homage to Thomas Jefferson, who, in 1797, presented a paper on the then-unidentified species to the American Philosophical Society.

The museum estimates the fossil is between 11,500 years and 300,000 years old and will showcase it in its Art of Nature exhibit from March 23 to May 26.

<p>Mason Schratter </p> Diagram showing where the bone was originally located

Mason Schratter

Diagram showing where the bone was originally located

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Ground sloth expert Melissa Macias emphasized the importance, explaining in a statement that the “Megalonyx jeffersonii is one of the very first fossils documented in North America."

"It’s just one of those iconic animals that more people should know about," her statement added.

 

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