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Metro unearths ancient elephant fossils below Wilshire Boulevard

Paleontologists find tusks of at least one mastodon at the site of a future Purple Line station

Painting of a mastodon
Researchers excavated tusk fragments belonging to a creature that no doubt once resembled this one
Wikimedia Commons

One of the advantages of expanding LA’s growing subway network is that excavation for the train lines has yielded an impressive array of prehistoric fossils over the years—from ancient bison bones to sea lion skulls.

Now, as The Source reports, researchers working with Metro during the construction of the Purple Line extension have discovered the remains of a two ancient mammals at the future site of the Wilshire/La Brea station—not far from the famously fossil-rich La Brea Tar Pits. The fossils were discovered shortly before Thanksgiving, and work around them has temporarily stopped while scientists excavate the remains.

Researchers excavating tusks Photos courtesy Metro

So far, they’ve found the teeth of an adult mastodon and a three-foot tusk fragment, as well as parts of the skull and tusks of a younger mastodon that may turn out to be a mammoth. The fossils will be examined more closely once they are safely removed from the dig site. Eventually, they’ll be turned over to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

These are the first mammoth or mastodon remains found during construction on the new Purple Line stops. Both species used to roam present-day California, but went extinct around 10,000 years ago.

A tooth being measured