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Video: Metro Found Some Sweet Fossils While Digging Near La Brea Tar Pits

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When you dig a hole 75 feet into the ground near the La Brea Tar Pits, you're probably going to dig up some fossils.

This is the case with the Purple Line extension, particularly the Wilshire/Fairfax station, which is adjacent to the tar pits. Over on Wilshire and Ogden near LACMA, you might have noticed Metro digging an "exploratory shaft" beginning last April. It looks kind of like an elevator shaft: the 20x40 foot box is supported by a steel frame.

Scott McConnell, Metro's Director of Construction Management, explains that the purpose of the shaft is to explore the geology, which contains tar sands, before they started doing any major digging. Metro knew the sands would likely hold fossils, so they collaborated with the George C. Page Museum to find and recover those fossils.

In a video released last week, Metro reveals some of the things they've found deep in the ground. Aisling Farrell Collections Manager at the Page Museum, says in the video they haven't uncovered any vertebrate mammals, but they have discovered plenty of marine shells.

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"It's really important that we work closely with Metro…because we get to train MTA and construction workers in what they might find and then we're guaranteed that the fossils are going to be protected for future generations. They're going to be housed at the Page Museum."

Kim Scott, Asst. Project Manager at Cogstone Resource Management, the company doing the paleontology for Metro, says they started finding most things between 50 and 53 feet down. One of the things they found was a species of clam that is still around today. The position of the clam indicates that at the time, California had a cold water climate more like the Pacific Northwest.

"Fossils tell us exactly what was going on with the environment 300,000 years ago," she says in the video. "In addition to the fossils, we've also been recording sediments as we go down the shaft. And that information gives us our first three-dimensional look at what's below LaBrea, so this is great to actually have this data and it's going to be used by scientists."

Watch the video here: