A rare full skeleton of a 50,000-year-old pig has been discovered by researchers from the Indiana State Museum.
The Ice Age skeleton of the flat-headed peccary was found this week in a southern Indiana cave.
"For more than 25 years, we have unearthed a mixture of flat-headed peccary and dire wolf remains from this cave, but nothing this complete," said Indiana State Museum Senior Research Curator of Paleobiology Ron Richards.
Richards and fellow researcher Michele Greenan exposed the remains described as a medium-sized animal with a strong resemblance to a pig in an undisclosed cave location in Crawford County, Indiana.
"Every summer, we spend two weeks at this site digging several feet below the surface of the clay, hoping to find something like this,” Richards said.
The findings include two back legs with their knee caps, a backbone, a head, ribs, hips and all the digits of the feet. Such fully-articulated skeletons are quite rare, Richards said. Yet it is not uncommon to find trace fossils, such as bear wallows, in Indiana caves.
However, the remains must be carefully preserved and removed or they can be destroyed, officials said. Indiana State Museum officials remind people that if they should encounter bones or other remains that appear to be old, do not attempt to remove them. The location and orientation of the bones must be carefully documented to preserve their scientific value.
Instead, contact the Indiana State Museum at 317.232.1637 and report the findings.
The remains of this peccary come from the late Pleistocene period, which spans from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. This period also included distinctive large land mammals like the mammoth and mastodon.
Large animals from this period will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at the Indiana State Museum titled Ice Age Giants: The Mystery of Mammoths and Mastodons, on view Nov. 16, 2013 through Aug. 17, 2014.
The museum will also feature other unique finds in the upcoming show.
Located in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, the Indiana State Museum is the Hoosier museum for science, art and culture.
For more information: Contact the Indiana State Museum at www.indianamuseum.org.