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Age of Mammals Media

Go in depth with our researchers and the unique specimens from the 
Age of Mammals exhibit.
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NHM's gem and mineral collection of about 150,000 specimens is the most significant in the country, west of the Smithsonian. See More

 

Red Rock Canyon Ancestral Skunk

One of the most unusual discoveries from the Dove Spring Formastion is the earliest and most complete skunk specimen ever found in the Americas. This almost perfectly preserved skull and lower jaws were collected by the MacConnell family in 1974 and is about 9 million years old. The delicate skull bones are so fragile that it is a surprise this fossil is so well preserved. Our study of this skunk has determined that it is a new species of an ancestral skunk, Martinogale faulli (Faull’s skunk), that gave rise to the rest of North American skunks. The new species was named in a 2005 paper after former Red Rock Canyon State Park ranger Mark Faull. We now know that skunks came from Asia by way of an ancient land bridge (Beringia) between Siberia and Alaska. The Red Rock Canyon fossil skunk records the very first appearance of this prehistorical migration from the Old World.

Skull and left jaw of Martinogale faulli (LACM 56230)

 

Reference:

Wang, X., D. P. Whistler, and G. T. Takeuchi. 2005. A new basal skunk Martinogale (Carnivora, Mephitinae) from late Miocene Dove Spring Formation, California and origin of New World mephitines. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 25(4): 936-949.

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Did you know?
The fossils of prehistoric animals during the past 7-12 million years ago can be found entombed in the sediments, including extinct elephants, rhinos, three-toed horses, giraffe-like camels, saber-toothed cats, and bone-crushing dogs. There are also fascinating small creatures such as ancestral skunks, alligator lizards, and shrews.