Scientists are finding a treasure trove of fossils in the Sierra Nevada Foothills as the remains of prehistoric species dating back five to ten million years have been unearthed.
The initial discovery was in July of last year on land owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District along the Mokelumne River in Calaveras County.
East Bay Ranger Naturalist Greg Francek was the first to spot it—part of a petrified tree sticking out of the ground.
“Further search of the area I discovered a second tree and a third and so on,” he said. “And several weeks into my survey is when I discovered the first vertebrae of fossils.”
Francek says this reveals a whole layer of history.
“This is perhaps the densest deposit of vertebrates discovered in California since the La Brea Tarpits,” he said
Nelsy Rodriguez with East Bay MUD says the Mokelumne River is at the center of it all.
“Not only is it the drinking water source for 1.4 million people in the East Bay Area, but it seems it was also a drinking water source for animals who roamed the earth millions of years ago,” she said.
Rodriguez added that dozens of species have been uncovered.
“We’ve recovered mastodons that are elephant-like animals with 2 tusks, gomphotheres which are also elephant-like but have 4 tusks.” she said. “We’ve recovered rhinoceros, camels before they had their camel humps.”
She says one of the mastodon’s skull and tusks are on display at the CSU Chico Gateway Science Museum.
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