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Earth Science

Wyoming's Natural Trap Cave Yields Huge Trove of Animal Remains 31

Posted by timothy
from the you'd-think-the-name-would-tip-them-off dept.
A cave in Wyoming that's easy to fall into, and hard to escape, has become a treasure trove for scientists. Scientists excavating an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare trove of fossils of Ice Age mammals have unearthed hundreds of bones of such prehistoric animals as American cheetahs, a paleontologist said on Friday. The two-week dig by an international team of researchers led by Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen marked the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s. ... Meachen said the extensive excavation that began late last month uncovered roughly 200 large bones of animals like horses that roamed North America from 12,000 to 23,000 years ago and an uncounted number of microfossils of creatures such as birds, lizards and snakes. ... A number of animals that fell 85 feet to their deaths after stumbling into the 15-foot-wide mouth of the cavern were unusually well preserved by cold and damp conditions, Meachen said.
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Wyoming's Natural Trap Cave Yields Huge Trove of Animal Remains

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2014 @09:44AM (#47637279)

    ... and suddenly you're fighting for survival.

    Kinda like going on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2014 @10:32AM (#47637413)

    Here's a photo from the cave floor. [dailymail.co.uk]

    And another from the surface [stateschronicle.com] showing the grate the park system has put over the opening for safety. But you can see if you were an animal running along that this would be a rather sudden an unexpected plummet.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @10:32AM (#47637417) Journal
    Does not go back very far. Just last 100K years. Similar to the La Brea tar pits in age and diversity. Tar pits preserve bones and lots of micro fossils very well, but it is very tedious to clean them out. May be this one could be easier.
  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @11:12AM (#47637539)
    Maybe they oughta stop digging. Albino bison are sure to follow.

    .
  • Wyoming... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bayankaran (446245) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @11:59AM (#47637715) Homepage
    What an interesting state...cave, Dick Cheney, sink holes, fossils.
    Go Wyoming go...
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @03:36PM (#47638755) Journal

    If a predator such as a mountain lion falls in and survives, he may actually have an easy life if new food falls in every few weeks. Even if the lion breaks its legs and can only hobble, bigger prey may be in worse condition, and thus readily munch-able, especially if the prey is vegetarian because they'd grow too weak to fight back being there's not much to live on down there.

    And the lion may get really lucky if another lion of the opposite sex falls in. They can limp around together and munch fallen buffalo and have a family.

    I doubt the frequency of falls is actually that high, but if the opening was at a highly-trafficked spot, such as near a watering hole or narrow passage through hills, it could be productive.

    • by EvilSS (557649)

      If a predator such as a mountain lion falls in and survives, he may actually have an easy life if new food falls in every few weeks. Even if the lion breaks its legs and can only hobble, bigger prey may be in worse condition, and thus readily munch-able, especially if the prey is vegetarian because they'd grow too weak to fight back being there's not much to live on down there.

      And the lion may get really lucky if another lion of the opposite sex falls in. They can limp around together and munch fallen buffalo and have a family.

      I doubt the frequency of falls is actually that high, but if the opening was at a highly-trafficked spot, such as near a watering hole or narrow passage through hills, it could be productive.

      Do you want cave lions? Because that's how you get cave lions!

    • Making best use of a bad situation ..
    • by Talderas (1212466)

      And then all the baby lions would playfully limp around and.... oh wait.

  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Sunday August 10, 2014 @04:37AM (#47640957)

    Apparently birds still fell to their deaths at that time.

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