The National Park Service recently announced that workers performing excavations on the site where an untouched cave was found more than a decade ago were close to unearth its entrance.
Researchers hope that the cave located in the in the Black Hills of South Dakota would help them better understand how climate change has affected the area over the ages.
Persistence Cave was found in 2004 by a worker of the park service but the park kept the discovery a secret for fear of damages crazed spelunkers may do to the unexplored site.
On Monday, a team of researchers from the East Tennessee State University resumed digging the site and are currently working on unearthing the cave’s entrance.
They reported that they had found 11,000-year-old animal bones and three species that are uncommon to the region – the pine marten, the pika or the “whistling hare,” and an ancestor of the peccary.
Scientists were thrilled with the finds. They said that finding the remains of extinct animals not only provided them with valuable information on the species that once inhabited the place, but also helped them better understand how climate changed in the area.
For instance, it was a surprise to learn that pikas actually once dwelled there because they are cold-loving animals which can still be found on some rocky mountain sides of North America. So, over the ages, climate has changed and pushed it into colder areas.
“What has changed to push it into Wyoming but not be in the Black Hills?”
asked Prof. Jim Mead from the East Tennessee State University.
The team said that they would compare the newly-found fossils with the ones unearthed at the famed Mammoth Site, an ancient site in the vicinity of Hot Springs in South Dakota found in the 1970s. The remains would be used to create a map of the climate change in the region.
At the pristine Cave in South Dakota, researchers unearthed mammoth remains as well. But the team is baffled by their age (11,000 years) since the oldest mammoth fossil dates back to 26,000 years ago.
Prof. Mead explained that the mammoth remains may also provide scientists with significant clues on what had happened in the Black Hills during the Ice Age.
But Persistence Cave’s location further remains veiled in secrecy at the National Park Service’s wish. The park service only disclosed that the cave’s mouth is almost one-third of a mile off the outer limit of the Wind Cave’s tunnel system. Once the cave entrance is unearthed, spelunkers and park’s employees plan to further explore it.
Image Source: Arounddeglobe
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