Ancient animals preserved in ash in NE Nebraska - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Ancient animals preserved in ash in NE Nebraska


NEAR ROYAL, Neb. (KTIV) - 12-million-years-ago, elephants, camels and rhinos grazed the Great Plains but a volcanic eruption spread ash across the country.

And the widespread ashes left some of those animals preserved at the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park.

Park Superintendent, Rick Otto, talks about the park and how this event in history could happen again.

"The site is dated about 12-million-years-ago, these were animals that were killed and quickly buried during a volcanic ash storm." said Rick Otto, Park Superintendent.

"There was enough volcanic ash that over a foot of it fell on average in northern Nebraska and that fine powdery glass dust is what got into the lungs of these animals and slowly suffocated them over weeks," said Otto.

"This was an ancient waterhole, this is a depression on the landscape that had some water in it. That water then was a magnet for the animals," said Otto.

"17 different kinds of animals have been found in the fossil bed so far. There is evidence that close to 50 different species of animals were living at that time. so there are a whole number of animals that we hope to find in this fossil bed," said Otto.

"The most common animal is a barrel bodied rhino the barrel bodied rhino stood about four feet tall, eight or nine feet long, there were five species of horses, horses that range in size from a large dog, up to a white tail deer," said Otto.

"Some people may have heard of the Yellowstone Hotspot or that Yellowstone is a super volcano. This ash originated from the Yellowstone Hotspot. Back 12-million-years-ago, the Yellowstone Hotspot was under southern Idaho, today the Yellowstone Hotspot is under Yellowstone Park and it's very likely that another eruption could take place," said Otto.

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is open from now until October 10th when it will close for the season.

For more information go to

Online Reporter: Tia Heidebrecht

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