Los Angeles subway construction unearths ‘rare’ fossil trove

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LOS ANGELES: The fossilized remains of creatures that roamed southern California 10,000 years ago were discovered by a crew digging for a subway extension under the busy streets of Los Angeles.

Since work on the extension began in 2014, fossilized remains, including a partial rabbit jaw, mastodon tooth, camel foreleg, bison vertebrae and a horse’s ankle bone have turned up from creatures that roamed the grasslands and forests that covered the region in the last Ice Age.

However, palaeontologist Ashley Leger who works for a company contracted by Los Angeles transportation officials to keep on hand as the city extends the purple line to the west side, along with her team uncovered an intact skull of a juvenile mammoth after almost 15 hours of excavation.

“It’s an absolute dream come true for me,” said Leger, who spent the previous decade at a South Dakota mammoth site with no discoveries even close to the size of the one in Los Angeles, said. “It’s the one fossil you always want to find in your career.”

Paleontologist Ashley Leger shows the skull of a young Columbian mammoth found at the construction site of the Metro Purple Line extension in Los Angeles

California’s strict environmental laws require scientists to be on hand at certain construction sites.

Assistant curator Dr Emily Lindsey called it a “pretty remarkable find,” noting that while thousands of dire wolf and sabre-toothed cat remains have been uncovered in L.A., there have been only about 30 mammoths.

A few hundred pounds and the size of an easy chair, the skull is especially rare because both tusks were attached. It’s being studied and is available for public viewing inside the museum’s glass-walled Fossil Lab.

With a nod to Hollywood, the 8- to 12-year-old Colombian mammoth was named Hayden, for the actress Hayden Panettiere, featured in the TV series “Nashville” and “Heroes.”