More than 4,500 fossils found as dig wraps up

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The major part of the Ziegler Reservoir dig operation wraps up today, having unearthed more than 4,500 fossils from 20 different animals since the monumental discoveries began last fall.

A mastodon vertebra from the Ice Age site [credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science]

Besides the known mastodons, mammoths, bison, sloths and camels, scientists and dig crews also found 13 types of smaller animals, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science announced Thursday.

Other remains found included: otter, muskrat, bat, beaver, chipmunk, rabbit, mouse, salamander, frog, lizard, snake, fish and bird. 

“We worked as quickly as possible to pull this treasure trove of fossils from the ground, so our work to identify all of the species we have found will begin in earnest once we have time for further analysis back at the museum,” said Dr. Kirk Johnson in a press release.

The leader of the excavation and the museum’s vice president of research and collections, Johnson predicted the recovery of 30 to 40 different animals, along with many well-preserved plant species. 

“Our work to really understand these findings and maximize the site’s scientific value is just beginning,” he said. 

The full dig crew will work through today and return to Denver on Saturday. Reservoir construction will resume next week, accompanied by a handful of museum staff should more fossils be found. 

The dig’s top scientists will also still be in town for fundraising and a final press conference on Thursday that Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to attend. 

Source: Aspen Daily News [July 01, 2011]

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