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Fossil skull of a flat-headed peccary, Platygonus compressus, from Bat Cave, Missouri.

Thanks to an abundance of fossils in Bat Cave, Missouri, paleontologists have been able to interpret seasonal social habits in the extinct flat-headed peccary, which lived tens of thousands of years ago during the Late Pleistocene Epoch.

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Diver with Protocyon jaw and vertebra

In a deep pit inside an underwater cave in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, paleontologists have discovered the fossils of two unexpected carnivorans, a bear and a wolf-like predator which were once thought to have lived only in South America. Fossils from Middle America are rare, and these ancient predators help shed light on the history of animal evolution and migration through the region.

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The cast of “Little Guy” (ETMNH 609) mounted on display in the ETSU Museum of Natural History at the Gray Fossil Site. Photo by Steven Wallace.

The Gray Fossil Site in East Tennessee preserves the remains of a diverse ecosystem dating to a time called the Late Hemphillian Stage and home to tapirs, alligators, mastodons, red pandas, and more. Now, a study published in the Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History unveils the latest new species from the site, a rhinoceros named Teleoceras aepysoma. At an estimated 4.5-4.9 million years old, these were among the very last rhinos in North America.

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Early dog burial at the Koster Site, Illinois.

Dogs were first domesticated in Eurasia by around 16,000 years ago. As human groups colonized the Western Hemisphere, dogs followed, giving rise to unique native American dog populations which ultimately vanished after the arrival of Europeans. But very little is known about the earliest American dogs. In a recent study published in the journal American Antiquity, researchers took a new look at three ancient dogs from central Illinois: two from the Koster site in Greene County and one from the Stilwell II site in Pike County.

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Cenococcum geophilum

Years ago, researchers put the dark clay of the Gray Fossil Site under the microscope to explore the ancient environment of Gray, Tennessee, around five million years ago. They were looking for pollen, but also came across other forest inhabitants, including fossil fungi. While the pollen became the subject of a 2013 study investigating the ancient plants of the fossil site, an analysis of the fungi has now been published in the journal Mycosphere. Normally, when we think of fossils, we imagine hard, durable things like bones, teeth, shells, or seeds.

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Peccary jaw from the Gray Fossil Site

East Tennessee was once home to a stunning diversity of remarkable animals, including rhinos, tapirs, mastodons, alligators, and more. We know all of this thanks to the fossil-rich clays of the Gray Fossil Site, located in Gray, TN, which preserve an ancient ecosystem dating back around 5 million years. Back then, the site was a large pond surrounded by a lush forest. Now, there’s another animal to add to our picture of this ancient ecosystem: peccaries!

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An illustrated reconstruction of the new wolverine species from the Gray Fossil Site, Gulo sudorus, shown with a young alligator (Illustration by Keila Bredehoeft).

JOHNSON CITY – Wolverines (Gulo gulo) are the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family today, and are distributed throughout cold, boreal habitats in North America and Eurasia. While wolverines are well-known for their ferocity, their fossil record is sparse and their origin has long been a mystery. A new discovery from the Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee has the potential to change that.

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Fossil Day celebration

On Saturday, November 10th 2018, the Gray Fossil Site & Museum is holding a Fossil Celebration! This event is part of our local celebration of National Fossil Day, an annual event that highlights the scientific and educational value of paleontology and the importance of preserving fossils for future generations. Activities and presentations for all ages will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. See fossils up close! Talk face-to-face with Gray Fossil Site paleontologists!.