Skip to comments.West US cave with fossil secrets to be excavated
Posted on 07/27/2014 1:48:24 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
For the first time in three decades, paleontologists are about to revisit one of North America's most remarkable troves of ancient fossils: The bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at the bottom of a sinkhole-type cave.
Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming is 85 feet (25 meters) deep and almost impossible to see until you're standing right next to it. Over tens of thousands of years, many, many animalsincluding now-extinct mammoths, short-faced bears, American lions and American cheetahsshared the misfortune of not noticing the 15-foot-wide (4 meters) opening until they were plunging to their deaths. Now, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is preparing to reopen a metal grate over the opening to offer scientists what may be their best look yet at the variety of critters that roamed the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains during the planet's last glacial period around 25,000 years ago...
Some mammal remains from the cave could be over 100,000 years old, Breithaupt said.
The remote site is exceptionally well preserved. It's far too challenging and dangerous to have been trammeled in by casual spelunkers. The Bureau of Land Management installed the grate to keep people and animals out in the 1970s.
A mound of dirt and rock containing layer upon layer of animal bones rises from the floor of the 120-foot-wide (36 meters), bell-shaped chamber. Meachen hopes the remains are sufficiently preserved in the cold, sheltered environment to contain snippets of genetic information.
(Excerpt) Read more at phys.org ...
(Bureau of Land Management photos also attributed to AP, so not using them)
That is very interesting. I agree with the scientist who called it a “tad creepy.” A natural death trap that has existed for 100k+ years and killed tens of thousands of animals!?! Maybe more than a tad creepy. Sort of a natural time capsule though.
Like the La Brea Tar Pits. Very interesting place if you've never visited. Many Pleistocene fossils in a nice museum.
There is an article about the earlier expedition into Natural Trap with more pics. I was hoping to find some good well illuminated pics of the bottom but haven't yet.
Hmm...makes one wonder if, like the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, scientists will find one hominid or homo sapien sapien among the animal bones.
I have heard and read about the La Brea Tar Pits since I was a kid but have not had the fortune to visit it. Someday maybe.
Good find, thanks!
I was wondering that too. In the pics at the link I posted they show the entrance. It’s easy to see how animals or humans could fall in.
Probably the creepiness comes from experiencing the grotto itself. One has to wonder how many human remains are down there, and if there are some, how old they are. Seems like a worthwhile idea to bore a parallel shaft and install an elevator (and/or staircase), and probably an underground facility for the analysis and cataloguing of the finds.
Heh, I love that one.
I recall (but couldn’t find in a cursory search) that somewhere in the western US there’s at least one sudden hole in the ground that has claimed the lives of ORV-riders.
I found a pic of a placard there that says it may have existed (and been trapping animals) for 250k years. Wow!
I know someone that excavated cave floors in just this manner. He found some quite interesting fossil bones.
There is one in Florida that is full of water to the top. Exploration shows it funnels down, then opens out into a wide cave.
Once the water level was way low, and any animal or man who fell in was permanently there. Exploration found a large turtle that some MAN cooked and ate while trapped there.
I remember a kid in Colorado ORVing and he jumped a hill-right into a mine shaft.
A friend of mine did the same in New Mexico, he landed in an irrigation ditch full of water.
Marble (Marvel) cave in Silver Dollar City Mo is built kind of like it. An opening at the top and it widens out to a large room that was once filled with guano (bat poo).
To save on rope one man were executed by throwing him into the cavern.
Done been cleaned out and is open to the paying public.
The Natural Trap Cave in WY makes me wonder how many big voids exist under the mountains that have no connecting shaft to the outside. Generally I think of the ground under me here in the Rockies as solid rock. But it obviously isn't entirely solid.
Great. Then they'll be 'repopulating' dire wolves and smilodon
I could go for a smilodon (in zoos), not so much dire wolves or short-faced bear. :’)
If the roof gave way sufficiently long ago, there could be stratified layers with intervening soil & rock.
I was surprised that the tar pits were in an area of less than five acres and the digging was primarily around 50 feet by 50 feet straight down only another 50 feet. The most interesting were the skeletons that were reconstructed in the lab and on display.