I have to admit to becoming slightly obsessed with perhaps one of the strangest mammals ever to have walked on the planet. I encountered them on a shoot with the BBC's natural history unit earlier this year, making a series about giant ice-age beasts. Turning off a long straight highway through the Safford basin in eastern Arizona, I met palaeontologist Dave Gillette. As the sun sank low, we cut into the desert, off-road, kicking up plumes of dust from our tyres. Eventually, we came to a halt, and in a pit with an A-frame standing over it, I could see a huge lump of white plaster. Except, of course, this was not just any lump of plaster - it contained a fossilised glyptodont. It was huge.
The next morning I headed back to the site at sunrise; the snow on top of the western mountains a rosy pink. It was around 6.30 when I arrived, and the desert air was distinctly chilly. The palaeontologists were already hard at work with no time to spare: the plaster bandages set rock-hard very quickly. By 10.30am, it was already getting uncomfortably hot.
Two million years ago, when the creature in the plaster jacket had been alive, the landscape here would have been completely different: instead of a desert, it would have been quite lush and watery. Fossil glyptodonts are... Source/Origin >> Read More