New US National Natural Landmark: Nebraska’s Ashfall Fossil Beds

National Geographic News is reporting that the U.S. Department of the Interior has designated Nebraska’s Ashfall Fossil Beds a national natural landmark.  The fossil beds, located near the town of Neligh, contain hundreds of fossils, including those of ” five species of horses, three species of camels, barrel-bodied rhinos, saber-toothed deer, several species of dogs, and two species of turtles.”  Like the fossils found in Pompeii, the skeletons of these animals are “preserved in their death positions, complete with evidence of their last meals in their mouths and stomachs.”

 “Many of these animals are subtropical or tropical, which shows how different our environment was in this area 12 million years ago,” said Rick Otto, the superintendent of the park.  “When you look at the fossil bed, you not only have an idea of what these prehistoric animals looked like, but the fact that they’re buried in this pure volcanic ash gives you an idea of the catastrophe that resulted in their death.”