Lake George Gem and Mineral Club, Earth Science Scholar Program
Porcupine Cave, located in Park County, Colorado is an important part of the paleontological world. It is a wild cave and not easily explored. (Figure 1). It contains several types of ice age animals, as well as clues to the Pleistocene Epoch. Another uncommon feature of the cave is its mud stalagmite.
|Figure 1. Entrance into Porcupine Cave. Photo © by S. W. Veatch.|
Several of the worlds' oldest ice age animal bones/fossils have been found there. The oldest mountain goat, coyote, and black footed ferret bones have been identified. There have been several cheetah teeth discovered. Ice age camel, ground sloth, wolves, deer, badgers, skunks, prairie dogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, and salamanders have all been found. These fossil animals provide insights about what the climate and ecosystem were like when all of these creatures were alive (Table 1, Figure 2).
|Figure 2. Ice Age animal bones are everywhere. |
The bones can be simply scooped up by hand
from the cave sediments that have
been lost to time. Photo © by S. W. Veatch.
It is possible that some of the animals were killed by predators, and then drug to the cave. It is also possible that some of the animals were trapped there by snowstorms, or predators. Some animals could have chosen to die in a place that was out of the snow.
A unique type of stalagmite was found at Porcupine Cave (Figure 3). The stalagmite is made of mud from melting glaciers. Mud stalagmites are formed the same way as regular stalagmites, but with one small difference. Instead of water with a mineral component forming the stalagmite, it is mud with a mineral component. Add dirt, water, and calcium carbonate, and you have a mud stalagmite. However, there are still more steps that must occur before the stalagmite can form. The drips of mud must come at a regular interval. If not, the stalagmite will be irregular. The mud hardens, forming layers of mud, which eventually become big enough to be considered a stalagmite.
|Figure 3. Mud stalagmite found in one of the several |
chambers of Porcupine Cave. Photo © by S. W. Veatch.
Porcupine Cave is full of biodiversity and includes many animals that lived during the Earth’s last ice age. It has a surplus of rare features. From animal fossils to cave formations, Porcupine Cave has something to interest everyone.
Anthony D. Barnosky, 2004. Biodiversity response to climate change in the middle Pleistocene-The porcupine cave fauna from Colorado. Beverly and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, Ltd. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=F9rs7k52goQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=porcupine+cave+colorado&hl=en&sa=X&ei=PdyfUMOjEMS0rQGp5oH4DA&ved=0CDAQ6wEwAA#v=onepage&q=porcupine%20cave%20colorado&f=false
Jim, E. , 2001, August 14. Colorado Cave Yields Trove of Ice Age Mammal Fossils. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/search?dq=Mud+stalagmites&hl=en&q=Mud%20stalagmites&sa=N&tab=pw
About the author:
Reilly Blakeslee is a twelve-year old, seventh grade student from central Colorado. She enjoys soccer, basketball, reading, and learning; especially about science and math. She participates in 4-H with her horse, sheep, pigs, and turkeys. This is Reilly's first published article. Reilly is a member of the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups Earth Science Scholars Program through the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club where she participates online. http://pebblepups.blogspot.com/