Fla. Museum fossil dig successful, more volunteers needed through May 13

April 13th, 2006

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History paleontologists and volunteers have recovered 60 partial to nearly complete animal skeletons from an ancient clay-filled sinkhole located in western Alachua County since work at the site began in May 2005, but more volunteers are still needed for the project, scheduled to continue through May 13.

Approximately 10 to 12 volunteers are needed each day, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age, maintain a moderate level of physical fitness and be able to work outdoors for a minimum of three hours. Experience is not necessary. All volunteers will receive training and will work with museum staff and University of Florida graduate students. Volunteers are responsible for arranging their own transportation to the fossil site.

For more information, see, http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/2006_dig.htm or contact Richard Hulbert, rhulbert@flmnh.ufl.edu.

The 2-million-year-old fossils discovered at the site range in size from 18-foot-tall, multi-ton giant ground sloths to small frogs, snakes and rodents. The excavation has revealed well-preserved, complete skeletons of giant ground sloths, a smaller species of sloth that stood approximately six feet tall and tapirs, hoofed, plant-eating mammals distantly related to horses and rhinoceroses.

The complete skeletons allow paleontologists, such as Jonathan Bloch and Richard Hulbert, to learn how extinct species walked and interacted with their environment. The site also revealed skeletons of mammals of varying ages, ranging from infants to adults, allowing Florida Museum scientists to study how each species changed in size and shape as it developed.

“We are very excited about the new species we have uncovered with the help of our volunteers,” Hulbert said. “We anticipate the discovery of many more species and skeletons in the remaining weeks of the dig.”

Media contact: Paul Ramey, (352) 846-2000, pramey@ufl.edu
Writer: Emily Banks