ALBUQUERQUE, June 13 (UPI) -- 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.
"This is the coolest thing ever," Gradillas said. "Some people with Ph.D.s in this field might not even have this kind of opportunity. We were so lucky."