When Naomi Vaughan got bored during her sister’s JV soccer game in Bend, Oregon, she never expected to make a 65-million-year-old discovery — but that’s exactly what happened last October when the then 6-year-old wandered away from the field and started digging in a nearby bush.
Poking around in the dirt, Naomi thought she had found a pretty rock that she later told her mom reminded her of the spiral-shaped amulet from Disney’s Moana. However, her mom Melissa ensured her that it might be even more special than that.
According to the Associated Press, Melissa told her daughter that the stone could be millions of years old. Just this month, they found out that it actually is.
After consulting with Greg Retallack, Director of Paleontological Collections at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, it became clear that the type of fossil Naomi discovered is actually extremely rare. Known as an ammonite, it’s an extinct marine invertebrate that would not be naturally found in Bend. And with the lack of information about where it might have come from, Retallack said that its monetary value is essentially lost. However, the discovery itself may still have implications for Naomi’s future.
“This is how we all start,” Retallack told CNN, while explaining that his career as a paleontologist began back when he was Naomi’s age. Similarly, at six years old, he found his first fossil as a shell on the beach, and he “never looked back.”
Although there’s no telling if Naomi will wind up in one of Retallack’s paleontology programs, her father Darin said that “she’s been thrilled to have discovered a fossil.” For now, she’s simply holding onto it as a memento. But maybe one day, it’ll serve as a reminder of where a future career began.
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