What could be California's richest fossil discovery to date was documented recently by an East Bay Conservation District Ranger. He was hiking in a large watershed in the foothills of the awe-inspiring Sierra Nevada Mountains when he came across a gigantic bonebed last year. He immediately contacted vertebrate paleontologists at The University of California Berkeley. UC Berkeley sent a team to recover the exposed material. Thus, California’s newest fossil quarry site was born.
Scientists immediately began to evaluate the site, excavate, and consolidate the many exposed remains. Coating the fossils in protective jackets formed out of plaster of Paris and burlap, a commonly used method for collecting fossils. The jackets collected from this bone bed yielded many exquisite fossils, notably a previously undescribed new species of ancestral whale.
Many early elephant fossils were also recovered, adding to the significant contributions California has made towards our understanding of elephant evolution. When massive bone beds like this are discovered, not just large animals are observed. Fossils of small mammals, fish, and even insects can be found in association with larger fauna. Studying these smaller fossils can help vertebrate paleontologists and paleoclimatologists reconstruct long-extinct ecologies.
This fantastic discovery highlights the necessity of conserving the natural resources in this state. Much like the environments of today, evidence of past biomes is nonrenewable. Much like a crime scene, this evidence must be protected where they occur so we can better understand what happened in the past.