Monday, March 9, 2009

Ask the Experts: How do you know where to look for fossils?

The truth is that you sometimes have to get lucky. There are lots of fossils in the ground all over Southern California. A lot of times you'll find them when you start digging up the ground to build something, like Diamond Valley Lake, a pipeline, or maybe your house! Whenever construction crews find fossils when they're digging, they hire a paleontologist to come out and collect them before they dig any more.

Other times you'll go out looking for fossils. You can start to guess where you might find them by looking at the layers of dirt and rock in an area - geologists call that stratigraphy. If you know a certain layer of dirt is a certain age, and you know it had fossils in it in one location, you can guess that it might have more fossils somewhere else, too.

You can also guess at where fossils might be if you know what the environment was like in an area long ago. If you know that a certain location used to be a river or lakebed, for instance, you might guess that its more likely to find fossils there, since more animals would have come there for water, died, and been buried. There are certain environments that preserve fossils better and others that dont preserve fossils at all; you can learn more about these from the interactive displays in the museum gallery.



Diana said...

Who was credited with the discovery of the fossils at the Domenigoni Valley/Diamond Lake?

Western Center Museum Staff said...

The actual discovery of the fossils occurred during the initial construction work for the Diamond Valley Lake dams. Construction crews were probably the first to uncover the bones, but no one is credited with having "discovered" the site.

The actual excavation of the site was overseen by the staff of the San Bernardino County Museum. Several fossil- or artifact-bearing sites could be active at any one time, and the excavation process spanned several years.