Hunting Tennessee Elephants and Rhinos
In the hunting world the unexpected sometimes happens, as when I visited Johnson City, Tennessee, and found a museum at the Gray Fossil Site where shovel-tusked elephants, saber toothed tigers, rhinos and tapirs are being excavated from the remains of a sink hole pond.
Blaine W. Schubert, PhD., graduate students from Eastern Tennessee State University, visiting paleontologist and volunteers are slowly digging through black clays which were deposited in a Miocene pond and meticulously uncovering, preserving and describing thousands of plant and animal species to make an unusually complete profile of life during the period.
Due to rapid burial in clay-rich soils, even very delicate bones from snakes and salamanders are preserved. No one knows what exciting find might next emerge that will reveal some new secrets of Miocene life when many of the species that we know today were evolving. Some, like horses and camels, became extinct in North America, but survived in Asia. Others, apparently originated in Asia, such as panda bears, but were present as in Eastern Tennessee in a forest setting that was not unlike today’s oak-hickory forest.
The geology of the site is described, how it is being excavated, the details of bone extraction, how the materials are preserved and the exhibits at the Natural History Museum, which is adjacent to the site. Although different in detail, this site is the La Brea Tar Pits of the eastern U.S., and represents an even more complete sampling of many extinct life forms.
Ads on the program include Rock Pickers Inc. who specializes in everything that a paleontologist, archaeologist or forensic scientist needs to excavate fossils and other remains from materials that range from solid rock to frozen Arctic soils. The cooking section is presented by SIN, Inc. (Synthetic Industrial Non-Nutritives, Inc.) whose basic raw material, glop, can be made to resemble anything such as the steaks from ancient rhinos that will provide the salt, sugar and butter taste that you crave from a raw material made from the best of coal tar, petroleum and agricultural waste by-products.
A new product introduced on the show is FloatEyes which are floating retaining straps for eye glasses so that if your expensive prescription sun glasses fall from your face they can be recovered. Many styles of eye glasses retainers are offered by the company including leather models that do not float, to jute and cork models that do.
Alligators are represented among the fossils at the site and the cooking section describes cleaning, cooking and eating the tasty meat from these large reptiles.
The Natural History Museum’s website is at: www.etsu.edu/naturalhistorymuseum
A selection of FloatEyes products may be seen at: www.FloatEyes.com.