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Micoene Mammal Finds
China has their dino trove, looks like we have a little mammal one...
SACRAMENTO Construction of the missing link in the state's power
transmission system has produced a startling discovery of a different
sort: a cache of fossils from a prehistoric grassland so rife with
wildlife that scientists have dubbed it California's ancient Serengeti.
Paleontologists excavated a shallow 6-foot-wide by 100-foot-long stretch
of hilltop being graded for a high-voltage tower to find a bone bed
containing 30 mammal species, including a new type of earth-digging
weasel, a jumbo predatory bear-dog, half-pint camels, a rhinoceros, giant
tortoises and five varieties of Hobbit-sized horses.
J.D. Stewart, a Pasadena paleontologist who led the subsequent dig last
summer for Jones & Stokes, a Sacramento environmental consulting company,
said it represents one of the most significant finds involving mammal
fossils from the Middle Miocene Epoch, which stretched from 15 million to
18 million years ago.
Stewart said the bone bed is the most complete and undisturbed collection
of land animals from that epoch since a UC Berkeley professor published a
paper on a trove of Miocene-era fossils.
"We haven't seen anything like this in about a century," Stewart said.
Investigators have work to do to comb through the bones of a variety of
bird species, and Stewart suggested that several new types could still be
discovered among the more than 1,200 fossils recovered.
And, he said, paleontologists have just scratched the surface.
Stewart speculated that a vast reservoir of other fossils remains at the
site. Paleontologists went only 6 inches deep, leaving deeper levels and
more of the turf for future scientists to explore as they develop new
insights and techniques.