SoCal Edison was going about its business trying to build a substation in Riverside County's San Timoteo Canyon when its team of scientists stumbled upon a jackpot of animal bones and plant fossils dating back about 1.4 million years (that's one million years older than those youngster La Brea Tar Pits). Back in what was called the Irvingtonian North American Land Mammal Age, the area was lush and green; the group found fossil evidence of "birch, pine, sycamore, oak, willows and cottonwoods, as well as cattails and horsetails," according to the LA Times. There were also, reports the AP, "nearly 1,500 bone fragments, including a giant cat that was the ancestor of the saber-toothed tiger, ground sloths the size of a modern-day grizzly bear, two types of camels and more than 1,200 bones from small rodents," plus llamas, deer, and a horse with tooth marks on its leg. Many are very well-preserved.
The find comes from a hilly region that was once flat, pushed up over the years by earthquakes on the San Jacinto fault, so the age of the fossils can help date fault activity. "The new find suggests that the average slip rate along the fault is substantially greater than geologists had previously believed," says the LAT, which means the San Jacinto could cause bigger quakes than previously believed. Thanks to the sloth skeletons for the helpful info.
The scientists will probably start publishing their finds in the spring, the substation is set to open in mid-2011, and the fossils will be put on public display in Hemet's Western Science Center around the end of the year. It's a happy ending for everyone, except, of course, for that horse.
· Construction crews unearth fossil 'treasure trove' [LAT]
· Calif. utility stumbles on 1.4M years old fossils [AP]