A group of friends in New Mexico didn't set out to discover an ancient stegomastodon skull -- or a fossil of any kind. They were just celebrating their friend's waning days of bachelorhood by taking a hike through Elephant Butte Lake State Park, some 150 miles outside of Albuquerque, N.M.
But along the way, the young men spotted a bone sticking out of the ground. They gathered around it and began digging. The bone turned out to be a tusk, and as they dug further they unearthed a giant elephant-like skull.
Antonia Gradillas, one the partygoers, called a friend that works at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. His friend directed him to Gary Morgan, a paleontologist with the museum. Morgan arrived the next day and said the young men had likely found the skull of a stegomastodon, a prehistoric elephant-like mammal that roamed North America some three million years ago.
"This mastodon was living, drinking, feeding alongside the ancient Rio Grande 3 million years ago," Morgan explained.
Naturally, the partygoers were thrilled.