North Dakota is a great location for fossil hunting. Enthusiasts come from all over to participate in public digs. North Dakota is rich in prehistoric discoveries due to its geography. Most of its surface is made of sedimentary rock that has not been touched by glaciers, creating ideal conditions for finding fossils. While most of the discoveries are by people looking for them, every once in a while someone stumbles across an ancient sample by accident. This is what happened at an oil drilling site in 2005, reported on this date in 2007.
During a routine survey for an oil well, an archeologist discovered a fossil of a titanoides, bear-like creature that lived 60 million years ago. State paleontologist John Hoganson said the creature was about 5 feet long and could have been anywhere from 200 to 300 pounds. “It’s a very rare, extinct mammal. They were about bear size, black bear size.”
That might seem strange at first, considering bears like forests, not wide open prairies, but a lot can change over 60 million years. When titanoides roamed the region, the environment was quite different. Hoganson explained that it was a subtropical region with forested swampland, more similar to the Florida everglades than the plains of today.
Titanoides were different from black bears in that they had longer snouts and were herbivores. They roamed the area of North Dakota to northern central Alberta and became extinct during a period of global warming, possibly caused by volcanic eruptions that created significant change to Earth’s carbon cycles. Forest composition and mammal distribution changed drastically, and the warm, humid climate the titanoides loved was gone, leaving behind the fossils we discover today.
Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas