On the News @ The Washington Post
When Calif. builders dig, paleontologists are there to bag the fossils — even whales
“At first, the bones are hard to see in the chunk of fused pebbles that Patrick Sena is holding. But in a minute they appear: a piece of jaw with a yellowing tooth, and a bleached femur whose round end could hide under the head of a pin. They’re 28.5 million years old.
Sena, a paleontologist with the San Diego Natural History Museum, looks up and squints at a hillside in the distance where scrapers and front-end loaders are noisily working. In a few years, these 250 acres will be Otay Ranch Village 3, with 1,200 dwelling units, an elementary school, a park, a swim club, and industrial and commercial spaces. Whatever Oligocene treasures the land may hold — other than the inconsequential ones in Sena’s hand — will be beyond reach.
For the next few weeks, however, the hunting will be good. Sena hopes to bag fossil tortoises, camels and rhinos, along with numberless small carnivores like the one whose bones he’s holding. “They will be cutting down through the richest part of the Otay Formation. That’s why I need to be out here.”
It’s the law. It’s also a terrific deal for the San Diego Natural History Museum, which gets to keep whatever is found.” (…) READ MORE
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