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Cave of Bones

A sinkhole cave in Wyoming is home to a number of animals that have been trapped there for tens of thousands of years, NPR's All Things Considered reports. The US Bureau of Land Management has opened the Natural Trap Cave to researchers for the first time in 30 years, NPR's Audie Cornish notes.

Paleontologists like Julie Meachem at Des Moines University are rappelling 85 feet into the hole to collect fossils and DNA samples.

"We would really love to discover some more mammal fossils down there and what we're really hoping to get out of these mammal fossils is some good ancient DNA, that will tell us about the conditions that these animals lived in and how DNA or genes changed with climate," Meachem says.

In particular, she is focusing on how climate change at the end of the Ice Age affected different animals, especially megafauna like mammoths, dire wolves, American cheetahs, and American lions that became extinct around that time as well as pronghorn antelope, gray wolves, and bighorn sheep that survived.