From Chasing the Raptor…
Portales Daily News. Note that there was no “Clovis” cultural group yet…\
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Recent travels allowed for a quick visit to the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. Now in their one hundredth year of excavation, the site has yielded over 600 species to date with a NISP of over 3.5 million (not counting over 200 bacteria). It’s a remarkable place and I feel privileged to to have been given an excellent tour by Dr John Harris and Curator Gary Takeuchi. Tar still bubbles and oozes and excavations continue, thanks in part to continuing growth of this highly urbanized area.
Although most of the tar seeps are closed off for safety, a couple can be accessed with a guide. The surface is just as deceptive as it is described and is often covered with leaves and dirt. The tar can also be deceptively solid feeling until the incredible stickiness locks your feet to the tar. Dr Harris provided a great example by having us poke the tar with a wooden lath. Even though it is solid enough to resist the lath for more than a top inch or two, it is extremely difficult to pull it back out again and it’s easy to imagine a hooved animal becoming mired almost instantly to await it’s demise by large cat or wolf or even thirst.
For reasons that aren’t completely clear, there are an extremely high number of predators and scavengers in the mix, implying that many carnivores may be tempted by a struggling animal but the more cautious grazers were likely scared away by their thrashing comrades. The upshot of this is an enormous number of coyotes, wolves, saber-toothed cats, short-faced bears, and American lions as well as the full gamut of vulture-like birds filling these pits and seeps. Below I am holding the humerus of a Smilodon fatalis, a prevalent creature at the Tar Pits.
Tusks grow like tree-rings and tell scientists a lot about the environment the creature lived in by proxy. A section of this particular specimen has been removed for analysis already.
For anyone interested in Ice Age fauna, the Page Museum is a definite “must see” stop on the journey through life.
A couple of months ago, Yevgeny Salinder, an 11 year old Russian boy, discovered a 30,000 year old mammoth thawing from the permafrost in the arctic Krasnoyarsk region. I have been hoping to hear more about this remarkable find but, of course, these things take time.
There is already some important information coming out about this find, including the discovery of large fat storage in the form of a hump on the mammoth’s back, confirming images from the Pleistocene depicting the humped back. Previously the hump in the art work was attributed to large thoracic spines but now it seems to be more camel-like soft tissue. Intact organs should tell us more about the animal and it’s environment than we have known. As the Arctic ice recedes, it seems we will find more and more of these specimens being exposed.
Links to this story can be found here:
Study suggests Beringia’s shaggy behemoths went extinct after a slow and gradual decline.
“Why are there no more woolly mammoths? The last isolated island populations of these huge beasts disappeared about 4,000 years ago — well after the Pleistocene extinction that wiped out much of the world’s megafauna — but what triggered their demise remains a frustrating mystery. According to the latest study to contribute to the ongoing debate, the last mammoths disappeared after a long, slow decline in numbers rather than because of a single cause.” Read on.