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CNN: S Cal Fossil finds in resevoir dig
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Reservoir Digging Unearths Mammoth Bones, Other Ice Age Fossils
HEMET, Calif. (AP) -- Digging for a new reservoir in Southern
California has uncovered a huge array of ice age fossils, including a
mammoth that may be the best-preserved bones of the elephant ancestor
found in the region, experts said.
"It's huge," Eric Scott, a paleontology supervisor for the San
Bernardino County Museum, said Wednesday of the fossils. "It's going to
rewrite North American paleontology."
The mammoth's yellow curving tusks, teeth, lower jaw and other bones
were found Monday at the site of the Eastside Reservoir, a
4.5-mile-by-2-mile expanse of raw, scraped earth in Riverside County, 75
miles east of Los Angeles.
"It's certainly the best-preserved we've found," Scott said. "There
could be a lot more of this critter."
The museum is overseeing state-required fossil research at the
reservoir, a $2.2 billion project scheduled for completion by the end of
Thousands of bones have been dug up since construction began in 1993.
While the area today is a mix of dry desert and farmlands surrounded by
hills, it was cooler and greener during the ice age 50,000 to 11,000
Mammoth, mastodon, sabertooth cats, horses, camels and many now extinct
species wandered the site in Domenigoni Valley, which was lush with
ponderosa pine and manzanita, Scott said.
"There's not an assemblage of animals like this anywhere for this time
period, not just in the inland valleys, but in California and even
perhaps the western United States," said Kathleen Springer, senior
curator of paleontology for the museum.
Paleontologists have also found bison, sloth, North American lion, dire
wolves, bears, badgers, weasels, peccaries and deer.
The mammoth bones appear to be from a female in her mid-20s, a
"sub-adult" to very young adult who died 15,000 to 20,000 years ago,
Scientists will take the bones to a laboratory to try to determine
whether the mammoth had a disease or injury, and will look for tooth
marks that might indicate she was killed by a predator.
The find was the latest in an area that is surprisingly rich in
fossils, especially those of mastodons, a smaller, more primitive
elephant ancestor that lived at the same time as mammoths. However, most
of the finds have been individual bones or fragments because an ancient
stream scattered and dismembered the bodies.
Scott said bones from about 10 mammoths and 30 mastodons have been
found, prompting researchers to nickname the area "The Valley of the
Mastodons have been found in the better-known La Brea Tar Pits in Los
Angeles, but nobody suspected they would be found so far inland
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