Depression-Era Workers Found Strange Fossilized Beasts in ‘Texas Serengeti’
by Laura Geggel, Associate Editor Live Science
About 12 million years ago, antelopes with slingshot-like horns and beasts that weren’t quite elephants but that had long trunks and tusks tramped across the “Texas Serengeti” searching for food and caring for their babies.
Little was known about this ancient menagerie until, during the Great Depression, the government created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and tasked some of the organization’s employees with finding and preserving thousands of fossils from the Miocene, an epoch that lasted from about 23 million to 5 million years ago.
Now, after more than 80 years in storage at The University of Texas at Austin, these fossils are finally being studied. The fossils have even revealed a previously unknown genus of gomphothere, an extinct elephant relative with a shovel-like lower jaw, and the oldest fossils on record of both the American alligator and an extinct dog relative. [Photos: These Animals Used to Be Giant]
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