Jude tripped and fell over the #Fossil while trying to hide from his younger brothers.
Jude Sparks next to his discovery. Stegomastodons are distantly related to elephants.
Dr Houde said the family got lucky with their discovery by visiting the site shortly after strong rains had exposed the fossil.
"My face landed next to the bottom jaw". "Ours includes the jaw but is missing one tusk so far - we may find it yet".
A boy's misstep on a family hike in New Mexico has given the world a prehistoric wonder.
Sparks with the skull in situ.
Houde then secured funding, found volunteers and coordinated the digging. He encourages others who might come across fossils to reach out to an expert rather than try to dig it up on their own. As it is, the fossil once fully excavated and preserved is expected to be displayed in an exhibition.
The fossil now lives at the university and will be restored for display.
"We have the unique opportunity to really compare what the animal looks like [on] a much larger complete scale and compare it with others", Houde told CBS Albuquerque affiliate KRQE, adding that it's extremely rare to find a almost intact skull of a mammal dating back to the Ice Age.
Prior, Houde confirmed the fossil to be that of a Stegomastodon.
Jude and his family have been invited to visit the fossil as researchers preserve it at the university, his father said. He noted they existed during a time when it was wetter and cooler, and Las Cruces is now a desert.
The jaw weighs about 120 lbs.
The one-ton stegomastodon skull is being kept on the New Mexico State University campus at the Vertebrate Museum.
"The upper part of the skull is deceiving". This skull is actually delicate: it is mostly hollow, its surface thin as eggshell. "I just knew it was not something that you usually find".
The fragile skull was held together essentially by the surrounding sediment, he added.
"In fact when the sediments are removed from the sides of them, they start to fall apart immediately and literally fall into tiny, tiny bits". After it was confirmed that they were remains of a stegomastodon, Dr. Houde informed a team of paleontologists who finally excavated the skull in May this year. Acting like plastics, the chemicals harden and restore the strength that would otherwise be present in the bone as protein. Complete stegomastodon skeletons can be as long as 30 feet (9 meters).
Work on the fossil is expected to take years, but it will likely be placed on display when the studies and preparations are complete.