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Strolling Along an Ice Age Shoreline

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Mar 20, 2014 2:35:00 PM

Seventy-three feet below today’s Los Angeles is a wealth of archeological and paleontological finds, one at least may be several million years old.

The story is an imagined walk along an ancient beach, combined with past climate and earth changes, combined with what has survived (but maybe no longer where it used to be) and what is long-gone, extinct (at least as exposed in previous digs), as well as what we might see just around the corner in, say, Griffith Park.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times reporting on the sticky dig not far from the La Brea tar pits, paleontologist Kim Scott feels the “most exciting finds have been a rock embedded with what appear to be part of a seal lion’s mouth (perhaps two million years old) and a non-fossilized 10-foot limb from a digger pine tree that would look right at home today in Central California woodlands.” Apparently, sea lions have survived and thrived throughout climatic change.

There may be parallels for what future humans will find long after we are gone.

Scott, field and laboratory director of Cogstone Resource Management, Orange, Calif., told the LA Times, “Here on the Miracle Mile is where the best record of life from the last great ice age in the world is found.” In the shaft (73-feet down), “You’re walking along an ice-age shoreline.”

Oil oozing up, created tar that trapped unwary animals. Current finds include saber-tooth tigers. Upper layers of the “swimming-pool-size shaft,” the top 40 feet, range from the modern era to 50,000 years old. Below is “near shore” from 100,000 to at least 330,000 years old.

In 2009 a nearby dig revealed a nearly intact woolly mammoth skeleton complete with 10-foot-long tusks (now named Zed).

To keep construction processes moving as quickly as possible, the LA Times reports that paleontologists have pioneered a process similar to the one used to move large living trees: In past digs, they identify the edges of what appear to interesting deposits, dig around underneath them, wrap them in heavy plastic, build wooden crates around the huge samples and lift them out with a heavy crane so that they can be studied by scientist in detail at their own pace.

Scott says that none of the identified fossils found at this location so far are extinct, even though the pit is revealing fossils older than those found at La Brea. “We can still find all the plants and animals in California,” Scott says.

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