Saber-toothed cat skull found|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|11/19/05 at 21:18:00|obadiah|xx|0|86.131.84.43|DICKINSON, N.D. - A complete skull of a saber-toothed cat found in
southwestern North Dakota over the summer is being prepared for public
display next year.

"Finding a complete skull is rare and very important," said John Hoganson,
paleontologist for the North Dakota Geological Survey. "We knew that these
cats existed here and found fossils previously, but this is an absolutely
perfect skull with lower jaw."

The big cats lived in North Dakota 30 million years ago, Hoganson said. The
animal looked much like a modern-day mountain lion.

"One of the big differences is they had canine teeth - really long and that
hang out of their mouth," he said.

The skull was found by volunteers Jim Daly, of Little Canada, Minn., and
Cathy Clayton, of Lake Elmo, Minn., during a fossil-collecting trip
sponsored by the Geological Survey and the Theodore Roosevelt Medora
Foundation.

Brett Woodward, a Geological Survey lab specialist who was on the trip, said
the skull was found at the base of a hill.

"Most of the skull was exposed on top of the ground," he said.

Hoganson said the skull is about 6 inches long and the saber teeth are 1-2
inches. He said it is in fairly good condition but will need some work
before it can be displayed next summer at the North Dakota Heritage Center
on the state Capitol grounds in Bismarck. It is being kept in the state
fossil collection at the center.

The skull was found about 12 miles southwest of Dickinson, in an area of an
ancient pond. Several landowners have agreed to preserve the "Little
Badlands" area because of its importance as a fossil site, Hoganson said.

"We'll be going back this coming year for another public dig," he said.
"It's a real interesting place. We've found the remains of champsosaurus,
crocodiles, freshwater clams and snails, three different kinds of turtles
and about five different kinds of fish."

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