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Rare juvenile tapir specimen unearthed at Gray Fossil Site

October 21st, 2009 12:00 am by Rex Barber, Johnson City Press

There’s a half-ton, fully jacketed fossil of a complete tapir sitting on the ground at the Gray fossil site.

Within the next week, a helicopter could be called in to lift the plaster-coated fossil to the front door of the nearby East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center. In the museum’s laboratory the unique and extremely rare find will be analyzed for information about the life and ecosystem that thrived in the region 4.5 million-7 million years ago, during the Miocene Age.

Brett Woodward, collections manager at the fossil site, said intact adult tapir fossils are fairly common finds, but this fossil is of a juvenile.

“This animal is special because it is a complete articulated skeleton of a baby,” Woodward said. “We do find juvenile material fairly often but we rarely ever find anything complete and articulated, and that’s because baby animals, the skeletons of babies, are very fragile and they very rarely survive the fossilization process.

Read the full report at the Johnson City Press' Web site.

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