The above image is a recent photo of what we have been working on in box 14. Last month we measured 320 fossils, all from this deposit!
This image shows the lower left jaw of a juvenile mastodon from Box 14, aka "Little Timmy," as it occurred with other fossils in the deposit. This jaw, which is now in the Lab, is one of many elements of Little Timmy recovered from Box 14. As mastodons are rare at Rancho La Brea, and as Timmy is a juvenile, it is likely that all the immature mastodon elements from this deposit are from the same individual. Asphaltic deposits normally consist of a jumbled mass of bones from many different individuals.
Box 12, our 8th box opened, is now our 6th box completed! Volunteer Jack fills the last buckets of matrix from Box 12 in the above image. When we opened Box 12 about a year ago, I wrote in the The Excavatrix about how it had some nice examples of permineralized bone, which is rarely found at Rancho La Brea, that were loose at the surface and put into buckets at the time of the entire deposit's removal from the ground.
This bird beak, recently recovered from Box 1, is from an extinct vulture of the genus Breagyps. Close in size to living condors, Breagyps has a distinctive long beak and is one of the rarer vultures from Rancho La Brea. This is the first identified element of this vulture from Project 23, and only the fourth beak ever found at Rancho La Brea.
These two thoracic (mid-back) vertebrae from a saber-toothed cat were recently excavated in Box 14. They are pathologically fused together and have other signs of arthritis. Life for this animal would have been painful but it survived successfully until it became mired in an asphalt seep. The abundance of excellently preserved fossils from Rancho La Brea helps us to piece together the life stories of the animals that used to live here.
This is a proximal phalanx of a juvenile camel found in Box 14. The only camel bone previously recovered from this deposit is a juvenile femur. As camels are not very common at Rancho La Brea, and as both bones are immature, they could be from the same individual.
Volunteer Sean Campbell recently found this coyote baculum (penis bone) in Box 1. The baculum is present in male primates, rodents, insectivores, carnivores, pinnipeds, and bats. So far from Project 23 we have recovered one weasel and three dire wolf bacula. This is the first coyote baculum identified from Project 23!
This is a fragment from the plastron of a large chelonian (the group that unites turtles, tortoises and terrapins) recovered from Box 10A of Project 23. Box 10A was a small deposit with a lot of broken bones. Its excavation was completed in 2009 but not many of its fossils have been processed yet. Other elements of this individual are currently being prepared. It may represent the only tortoise species known from Rancho La Brea!
The BBC has just finished filming behind-the-scenes at the Page Museum for an upcoming three part documentary called “The Ice Age”. Presenter Dr. Alice Roberts interviewed and interacted with staff and volunteers in the collections areas, the Fishbowl Lab, and at the Project 23 excavations. With CGI animals, interesting conversations, and great footage this promises to be an exciting show. Watch out for its release in spring 2013!