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Ancient camel-like fossil uncovered by construction crews in Colorado

It’s no secret that Colorado was once teeming with prehistoric species, making it no surprise that fossils pop up from time to time when people start digging.

It was recently announced by the Colorado Department of Transportation that construction crews working on the ‘Central 70 Project’ made multiple fossil discoveries last October in the area of Brighton Boulevard and the Union Pacific Railroad.

According to a press release on the matter, “about seven” fossils were found, thought to originate from the Pleistocene-age Broadway Alluvium with the Pleistocene epoch starting 2.6 million years ago and lasting through 11,700 years ago.

The most significant discovery was a fossil consisting of two molars likely from the camel-like Camelops hesternus.

This now extinct animal was similar to the modern day camel, though it is unknown if the species had the typical camel hump.

When this fossil was discovered, it was in backfill and already removed from scientific context. Because of this, an exclusion area to learn more would not have been effective, thus was not required. On-site Kiewit construction crews were able to collect the sample.

Construction crews did set up an exclusion area for another discovery in the same area, which was a fossilized distal humerus of a hoofed animal. This was later collected by a Paleo Solutions’ paleontologist.

Other non-significant fossils consisting of bone fragments were discovered in the same area.

A third significant discovery was made in the area of North Milwaukee Street and 46th Avenue consisting of a possible artiodactyl partial calcaneum or patella. The artiodactyl family currently consists of mammals like cows, sheep, camels, and pigs. Animals in this order are known for their cloven-hooves.

Another possible fossil was discovered at the Brighton Boulevard site, though this was later determined to be a modern bone.

When these discovered were made, a paleontologist was on-site every day for multiple weeks to monitor operations and ensure that required protocols were being followed during the construction. The discoveries did not cause any delays on the project.

All fossils discovered throughout the project will be given to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The ‘Central 70 Project‘ is meant to make major improvements to the stretch of I-70 between I-25 and Chambers Road, which carries upwards of 200,000 vehicles per day. During the project, a 10-mile stretch of road will be reconstructed, along with other objectives, costing a total of $1.2 billion and expected to last through late 2022 with ongoing tasks into 2023.

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