San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[BRCC San Diego Natural History Museum: Paleontology]
Pleistocene Fossil Find

Fairbanks Ranch: November 2, 1999

A significant paleontological discovery was made Tuesday in north coastal San Diego County. While working on a construction site in Fairbanks Ranch, geologists from Southern California Soil and Testing unearthed prehistoric vertebrate fossils, about 200,000-300,000 years old. Realizing they had discovered something special, they notified Tom Deméré, Curator of Palentology at the Museum.

Photo of partial forearm bone from a Shasta Ground Sloth, by Tim Murray, SDNHM ©1999
Partial forearm bone from a Shasta Ground Sloth
Photo of jaw bone of extinct Western Camel, by Tim Murray, SDNHM ©1999
Fossil jaw bone of the extinct Western Camel preserves an erupted deciduous ("baby" tooth) fourth premolar and an erupting first molar. This dental condition indicates that the camel was not an adult individual when it died, but more like a teenager.

Museum paleontologists are analysing the site and the fossils to determine their age. Clearly they are from the later half of the Pleistocene Epoch (the so-called "Ice Ages") 700,000 to 10,000 years ago. The geology of the area further suggests that the fossiliferous deposits probably accumulated during an interglacial period. Dr. Deméré's working hypothesis is that they are probably 200,000 to 300,000 years old. The findings will be released in a report and the fossils will be put on display in the Museum for the public to view.

This discovery adds a valuable piece to the puzzle in understanding San Diego's history during the Ice Age. The Museum appreciates the homeowner who donated the fossils for research and care and the geologists for notifying our paleontology department. The public is urged to call the Museum when finding fossils. They could be the next piece in the puzzle.

Photos by Tim Murray for the San Diego Natural History Museum ©1999