History

‘Texas Serengeti’ Features Fossils of Elephants, Alligators, and Camels

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A collection of fossils from Texas which have been kept in storage since the early 1940s has proven to be a treasure trove for researchers. The surprising selection of creatures uncovered during a recent study of these fossils includes the oldest American alligator, camels, and a large type of elephant-like beast, among others. The study has led those involved to name the region where they were located (near the Gulf Coast) the ‘Texas Serengeti.’

The State-Wide Paleontologic-Mineralogic Survey originally uncovered the fossils between 1939 and 1941. At the time, it was revealed that a number of people who were unemployed in Texas were given jobs excavating for such ancient discoveries. In the process, this dig uncovered an impressive amount of fossils, many of them large specimens.

‘Texas Serengeti’ Fossils Featured Elephants, Alligators, and Camels

Photo: Facebook/OLLI UT Austin

Among the collection, rhinos, antelopes, and at least a dozen kinds of horses were found, together with various carnivorous species. It encompasses 4K specimens in total, entailing 50 species. They lived in what’s now known as the Lone Star State approximately eons ago and have been noted as “the most representative collection of life from this time period of Earth history along the Texas Coastal Plain” according to a study associate.

The recent study of these fossil findings from more than 70 years ago has been completed by Steven May of the University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences. The accompanying paper he released states the collection was garnered from dig sites close to Beeville. Its value was found not only in the details on the ancient Texas inhabitants but also the discovery of “new genus of gomphothere,” which is an extinct type of elephant with a distinctive lower jaw. The fossils came into the university’s collection as part of the original dig which was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federal agency designed to provide employment during the Great Depression. During the time of the original dig (1939 to 1941), they partnered with the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology for supervised digs across Texas.