DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Museum of Nature & Science completed its largest-ever fossil excavation at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village and on Friday released science updates and unveiled landscape paintings of site.

The fossil discovery is one of the most significant ever made in Colorado.

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Museum officials said over the past four months work on the project has gone on behind-the-scenes. The Museum commissioned a series of paintings from world-renowned painter and muralist Jan Vriesen that show the site during various time periods.

LINK: Five Paintings of the Ziegler Reservoir Landscape

“We are in the early stages of scientific study and plan to continue offering updates on our progress,” said Dr. Kirk Johnson, vice president of the Research and Collections Division at the Museum. “There are now more than 40 scientists investigating various aspects of the site and new data is pouring in daily.”

Some of the new information released on Friday is as follows:

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— Growing Animal Species Count — Now 41: The list of different species from the site continues to grow. In addition to seven large mammal species—mammoth, mastodon, Jefferson’s ground sloth, camel, deer, horse, and giant bison—the site has yielded an additional 34 species, including trout, salamanders, shrews, bats, weasels, river otters, rabbits, frogs (4 species), snakes (2 species), lizards (2 species), birds (5 species), and rodents (14 species, including beavers, muskrats, voles, lemmings, mice, gophers, chipmunks, and ground squirrels).

— Mastodon Entrapment Theory: Scientists are testing a hypothesis that the more than 30 mastodons uncovered at the site were trapped there in lake sediments that transformed into quicksand during an earthquake or series of quakes.

“Evidence such as the nature of the debris flow deposits, the condition of the bones, and the distribution of the bones may support this scenario,” said Johnson. “Ultimately we use many types of data to test more than one hypothesis. This site is really complicated and this work is just beginning.”

The “Snowmastodon” name has been formally filed with the State of Colorado and is a trademark of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

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