Ice age mammal bones discovered during subway construction in Los Angeles

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Jasmyn Nolasco (left) and Janis Basuga (right) put the leg bone of either a mammoth or mastodon (it's unclear which) into a protective plaster cast. Credit: Cogstone Resource Management Inc.

The discovery of ice age mammal bones — one belonging to an extinct camel and the other to either a mastodon or a mammoth (it’s hard to say which) — temporarily stopped construction of Los Angeles’ subway line extension [in April 2017].

The bone from the extinct camel (Camelops hesternus) is an exceptionally rare find, Leger said. The La Brea Tar Pits hold the preserved remains of more than 600 species of plants and animals, including the bones of thousands of saber-tooth cats and dire wolves. But researchers have found the remains of only about 40 camels in the tar pits, [shley Leger, the paleontological field director for Cogstone Resource Management Inc.] said.

Camels originated in North America about 45 million years ago before spreading across the world. The last known Camelops died about 13,000 years ago, said Emily Lindsey, an assistant curator at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Leger noted that although the newfound bones aren’t completely fossilized (that is, with minerals replacing original bone), they are referred to as fossils because they are 10,000 years old or older.

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