Paleontologists Are Discovering A Huge Amount Of Ice Age Fossils Hidden Under The Los Angeles Subway

Jae C. HongGetty Images

When the city of Los Angeles conducts work on their subway system, there are always paleontologists at the ready to identify fossils found underground, and their dedication and hard work means that there are now a large number of Ice Age fossils being studied of animals who once roamed the very places that we now drive and walk.

Work began on the expansion of the Metro Purple Line in Los Angeles in 2014, and paleontologist Ashley Leger waiting patiently for an alert on her cell phone to notify her of any strange and unusual remains that were found while the subway was being built.

Rather than working out in the country and in wide open spaces, Leger has chosen to work in the city and is part of a team of scientists who transportation officials collaborate with so that fossils can be studied and preserved once found, as Phys.Org report.

“They’re making sure that they’re recovering every single fossil that could possibly show up. They call me anytime things are large and we need to lead an excavation.”

Los Angeles looked very different during the last Ice Age which was approximately 10,000 years ago. Forests and expansive grasslands would have covered the area, and here woolly mammoths and other magnificent creatures would have lived out their days. Since the beginning of the Purple Line expansion, an absolutely huge amount of Ice Age fossils have been found and extracted from the ground.

Paleontologists are working closely with the city of Los Angeles while work is being conducted on the subway system.
Paleontologists are working closely with the city of Los Angeles while work is being conducted on the subway system.Featured image credit: Jae C. HongGetty Images

Some of the discoveries of Ice Age fossils in Los Angeles include the foreleg of a camel, bison vertebrae, an ancient rabbit jaw, the teeth of a mastodon and, excitingly for paleontologists like Leger, part of the remains of a juvenile mammoth.

“It’s an absolute dream come true for me. It’s the one fossil you always want to find in your career.”

Dr. Emily Lindsey of the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum has explained that while there have been numerous dire wolf remains and fossils of saber-tooth cats, finding Ice Age woolly mammoths is quite a big deal, especially as only around 30 have been found in the area so far.

Lindsey is also extremely thankful that the city of Los Angeles has had rules in place since the 1970s to make sure that while urban work is carried out in the city on subway systems and other areas that these spaces are also being actively monitored by scientists, especially considering the vast amount of Ice Age fossils buried underground.

“Most of the past is below the ground, so you’re only going to find it when you dig. As the city grows, I’m sure we’ll find more exciting fossil material.”

As Los Angeles continues to grow and their subway system expand, the past will continue to be brought to the surface with the discovery of further Ice Age fossils from animals who were once the only residents of the city.