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USGS CMG InfoBank: Studying the Bones

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Comment: 18:36 - 20:01 (01:25)
Source: Annenberg/CPB Resources - Earth Revealed - 11. Evolution Through Time
Keywords: "Eric Scott", "Rancho La Brea", fossil, plant, pollen, mammoth, bison, "saber toothed cat", tar

Our transcription: The La Brea tar pits have yielded fossils ranging from microscopic plants and pollen spores, to giant mammoths and bison.
For me, the most fun is not so much finding the fossil, it's identifying it.
Suddenly this isn't just a lump of bone; suddenly this is a saber toothed cat skull, this is a bison femur, something like that.
And there's a thrill that goes through you when suddenly you realize this isn't just a fossil, this is a particular kind of animal that died here.
And that's very exciting for me.
As the site is excavated, the positions of every fossil are carefully measured and cataloged.
At the end of the excavation we want to be able to reconstruct exactly how these bones came to be deposited -- what happened to this animal between the time the animal died in the asphalt and the time that we dig it up here?
So what we hope to be able to do when we take measurements on each bone is to reconstruct how this bone has moved through time in the deposit and put it back with the rest of the animal, so that we can determine what happens to these individuals as they decompose and as the pit is deposited through time.

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