Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Glyptodon Redux

Twice in as many weeks, I've encountered a reference to the once-mighty glyptodon. That now-extinct genus were like giant armadillos. They were extant through toward the end of the Pleistocene, but went extinct like many other megafauna sometime between the late Pleistocene and early Holocene.

File:Pleistocene SA.jpg
Pleistocene of South America, by D. Bogdanov,

So where did this fascinating creature, which I don't recall having heard of until two weeks ago, show up?  In a book on Kentucky State Parks. Apparently there's an exhibit on them and other Pleistocene creatures at the museum at Cumberland Falls State Park.

Kentucky has a number of state parks which has some amazing features. The caves and arches at Carter Caves are a lot of fun packed into a compact space. Natural Bridge is amazing. Big Bone Lick has a few interesting mineral springs (though nothing like Yellowstone), a bison heard, and a small paleontology museum containing some of the great finds that have been made there. I've been to all three several times, and was looking for somewhere new. Cumberland Falls looks appealing, as it is home to the so-called "Niagara of the South", a 68 foot high, 125 foot wide waterfall. It is reputedly quite impressive, and on clear nights around the full moon you may be able to witness a Moonbow, the only place in the Western Hemisphere where this is possible.

 Photograph of Cumberland Falls taken in June, by Chris Kuehl

The book I was reading about Cumberland Falls and the glyptodon in was alas full of various errors. Wrong years, bad explanations, and a description of a park containing the oldest post office east of the Allegheny Mountains. (It cannot literally be the oldest post office east of those mountains. Maybe with some qualifiers, like "in Kentucky".  Maybe west of the Allegheny.  But not as stated.) 

Mistakes aside, despite being a 20 year old book, it gave a nice summary of a nice state park system. Like I mentioned in a previous post, most of them are just lake parks, not that there's anything wrong with that. But others are quite impressive.

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