March 20, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Los Angeles Ice Age Fossils Are Changing Tar Pit Story

More Ice Age fossils have turned up in a Los Angeles subway tunnel, and there are surprises.

“Trove of Ice-Age Fossils Found in LA Subway Dig” writes Martin Macias Jr for the Courthouse News in Los Angeles on March 4. A video clip in the local KTLA 5 News begins by calling the La Brea area, with its famous tar pits, as “the largest collection of Ice Age fossils in the entire world.” New fossils were exposed as excavators dug for a new subway line. They found a Columbian mammoth (the largest kind), and fossils of dire wolves, camels, horses, bison, saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and many other of the species on display in the Page Museum of fossil discoveries.

Mammoth hunt. Mural at La Brea Tar Pits museum. But when?

Macias indicates why this particular treasure trove of fossils is significant:

More than 500 fossils of Ice Age beasts, including saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and huge mammoths, have been discovered in recent months by crews tunneling a new Los Angeles subway branch, paleontologists revealed Monday.

The trove of fossils, which date back to the Pleistocene Epoch, have also challenged beliefs previously held by paleontologists who study the beasts that called the LA basin home millions of years before the region was covered by a vast ocean.

The report lacks details about the “challenged beliefs” concerning the fossils, but Macias points to unexpected aspects of their burial. Typically, the story was that animals got trapped in sticky tar. Not these, though:

Harris also said it was rare for paleontologists to find fossils of saber-toothed cats and dire wolves at La Cienega station, a site which was not a tar pit, since the beasts didn’t usually live in large communities.

Macias relays a hypothesis about what buried these animals:

John Harris, who leads Cogstone’s laboratory work identifying fossils, said in an interview that partial sloth skeleton was discovered in sediments that contained fragments of charcoal, indicating the beast was preserved in a mudslide that likely resulted from an ancient wildfire.

People driving the busy streets of west Los Angeles, with high-rise buildings all around, are oblivious to the rich community of large animals that once called this land home.

Fitting the La Brea fossils into either an evolutionary or creationary scenario is challenging. For creationists, because they need to decide if these are pre-flood, mid-flood or post-flood deposits. For evolutionists, because today’s world is impoverished of the magnificent beasts that roamed the world. The biosphere has devolved since then in terms of species richness. Also, the Stuff Happens Law would never create these large, highly complex creatures, let alone a living cell.

Noteworthy is the fact that most of the bones are badly disarticulated (separated and jumbled), and some human remains have been found. Another surprise is that most of the fossils (both of birds and mammals) are predators. Dire wolves are the most numerous of all! The facts bespeak unusual circumstances in the way these bones were deposited and possibly transported.

Most geologists (both creationary and evolutionary) accept that the sea inundated the Los Angeles basin, which was once apparently a grassland when the megafauna were live. Now fresh-looking fossils of clams, sand dollars (echinoderms) and shark’s teeth can be found throughout Los Angeles county. When these events occurred, and in what sequence, are puzzles still challenging theories. If you go to the Page Museum, though, beware the evolutionary tales. Don’t swallow the ending diorama that shows a simplistic, ridiculous panorama of evolution from bacteria to astronaut. Pity the schoolchildren who pass through this museum and only hear that “stuff happens” explains everything.

From slime to astronaut: made simple, given billions of years of Darwinian Stuff Happens. (Poster at La Brea Tar Pits Museum, Los Angeles)

 

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