Here’s a fun fact: paleontologists estimate that less than one percent of life on earth turns into fossils. That’s why all fossils are of interest. They’re rare.
Rare as they may be, a wide variety of fossils have been found in recent weeks during construction of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway.
Among the findings at the future Wilshire/La Cienega Station: an ancient elephant tibia (lower leg one); several parts of a bison including a skull, jaw bone, metatarsal (foot bone), toe bone, several vertebrae, femur and tibia; a horse tooth; the ulna of a duck-sized bird that is tens of thousands of years old although it’s still possible to see where the feathers were attached, and; a shoulder blade and proximal end of a femur from a giant ground sloth!
The other two stations on the first phase have also yielded finds, including a mammoth tibia at Wilshire/Fairfax and double horn core and skull fragment from a Pronghorn (a member of the antelope family) and sea otter humerus at Wilshire/La Brea. The sea otter is the first carnivore found during work on the subway extension.
The animal that has drawn the most excitement recently has been the Giant Ground Sloth, which could weigh up to 3,000 pounds. These gentle giants were plant eaters and used their huge claws to strip leaves from trees.
“The bison from the past are very exciting,” said Dr. Ashley Leger, the Paleontological Field Director for Cogstone Resource Management who works with the project team to identify and preserve any fossils found during construction.. “We found a skull, complete with its horn cores. It helps give us an idea of how large these animals were — about 20 percent larger than modern bison.”
As Leger also notes, Mother Nature has a sense of humor. The Wilshire/Fairfax Station was expected to yield the most fossils because of its proximity to the La Brea Tarpits. But that’s where the least number of fossils have been found with Wilshire/La Cienega the leader by far.