Skip to comments.'Wondrous': Ranger stumbles onto biggest Calif. fossil find ever
Posted on 05/21/2021 12:17:41 PM PDT by nickcarraway
It started with a petrified tree, half-buried in the mud of the Mokelumne River watershed in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The site intrigued Greg Francek, a ranger for East Bay Municipal Utility District, as he was walking the valley last summer.
He inspected further, and what he recently discovered led to one of the most significant fossil discoveries in California history.
Advertisement "I looked around the area further and I found a second tree," Francek said in an EBMUD statement released this week, documenting the discovery. "And then a third and so on. After finding dozens of trees I realized that what I was looking at was the remains of a petrified forest."
Petrified wood comes from trees that were buried in the fine-grained sediments of deltas, floodplains or volcanic ash beds, and turned to stone over millions of years.
After three weeks of surveying the site, Francek made an even more curious discovery.
"I located the first vertebrate fossils," he said. "What I didn't comprehend at the time was the amazing fact that I was looking at the bones of great beasts that had roamed this landscape millions of years ago."
Francek reached out to experts in paleontology and geology from across the country to come inspect the bones, and they're still there today making historic finds.
Those great beasts include mastodons (elephant-like creatures with unique teeth; the name means "nipple tooth"), gomphotheres (ancestral elephants, but with four tusks) and, incredibly, 400-pound salmon with spiked teeth, among others still to be identified. They even found camel fossils.
The bones are thought to be from the Miocene era, around 10 millions years ago. The site, the Mokelumne River watershed, is where some 1.4 million Bay Area residents get their drinking water. EBMUD has owned and managed 28,000 acres of watershed land there for a century.
"The discovery is highly significant because of both the sheer number and diversity of specimens found. Few other fossil discoveries like this exist in California," said Dr. Russell Shapiro of the Chico State Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences in a statement. “The bones paint a clearer picture of life 10 million years ago when animals evolved from living in forests to grassland as the landscape changed."
Mastodon remains were last found in California by the agency in 1947 during pipeline construction in Contra Costa County. But the current trove of fossils is the largest and most diverse in the state's history.
"Since this is one of the more significant paleontological finds in California, researchers still have a lot of questions like why are all these fossils in this location? How did they die? What happened and when?" researchers wrote. "The study of this site may take years."
Find more information and photos of the discovery on EBMUD's excellent virtual presentation, here.
Did he find any fossil fuels with it?
A pile of bones from all sorts of creatures in one spot?
Wow. That truly is amazing. I studied geology and in my limited experience, finds like this really are rare and tend to have big impacts.
Couldn’t even get a photo of the real thing but just of a cast.
It really is. Million(s) year old? That’s something.
incredibly, 400-pound salmon with spiked teeth....................Gonna need a bigger net..................
Happens a lot.
I imagine a disaster like a flood or volcanic eruption or an earthquake musdlide/landslide...................
I caught the last seconds of this on the radio yesterday, but didn’t hear anymore about it. Thank you for posting it
Why all the bones in one spot? They had Newsom as Governor.
Outdoors/Rural/wildlife/hunting/hiking/backpacking/National Parks/animals list please FR mail me to be on or off . And ping me is you see articles of interest.
then along comes Mr. Whitey and he turns you fishing net into something from a kiddie’s scissor class
What’s with that salmon in with them? And all different types together? Some would be enemies of each other.
“A pile of bones from all sorts of creatures in one spot?”
He found the backyard of a caveman slaughter house. Those tree fossils were used in the smokehouse.
Keep looking and you’ll find Ally Oops grave.
Suggestive of a water source like a lake shoreline. All animals need water
Geological disaster, like a landslide or similar..................
I believe they have found a fossilized homeless camp.
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